During Prime Minister’s Questions on May 25th 2022, where the focus was on the Home Office’s passport backlog, Boris Johnson said: “We got the vaccine roll-out done when [Keir Starmer] would have kept us in the European Medicines Agency”.
Even if we were still a member of the EU, the UK regulator would have been able to authorise the vaccine roll-out on its own because EU law already allows it. This legislation took effect in the UK in 2012, long before Brexit was on the cards.
A UK government press release from 23 November 2020 spelt this out in terms. “If a suitable COVID-19 vaccine candidate, […] becomes available before the end of the transition period, EU legislation which we have implemented via Regulation 174 of the Human Medicines Regulations allows the MHRA to temporarily authorise the supply of a medicine or vaccine, based on public health need.”
Britain was still bound by the EMA regulations when the vaccine rollout began in December 2020.
The head of the MHRA, June Raine, clarified the situation when she said: “we have been able to authorise the supply of this vaccine using provisions under European Law which exist until 1st of January.”
Johnson made his tired and nonsensical claim about vaccines as he fended off questions from the Labour leader about passport backlogs.
The Prime Minister’s false statement remains on the Commons record in defiance of the Ministerial Code.
We approached Boris Johnson's office, No10 Press Office and the Cabinet Office to give them a chance to comment, but received no response.