James Cleverly has struggled to explain how the UK will access the coronavirus vaccine – which is produced in Belgium – in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Cleverly said stocks of the vaccine would be flown into the UK should a no-deal Brexit occur but stopped short of explaining other methods were being considered by the government.
The foreign, commonwealth and development office (FCDO) minister tried to allay concerns of the jab being held up at customs checkpoints at Dover port.
Speaking on Sky News, he said: “We’ve got extensive plans in place to ensure the supply of the vaccine. As you can imagine, that is the absolutely priority product and we are committed to making sure that we can all get that vaccine supply to the UK.
“We have the use of non-commercial flights. We’ve got border arrangements in place.”
When pressed to explain those arrangements in more detail, the minister simple replied: “Well, I haven’t got the details at hand.”
“As you can imagine, everyone understands the significance of vaccines. These are people’s lives at stake -“
Presenter Key Burley butted in: “Yes, but if it’s stuck in a lorry three miles back, how are you going to get it through.”
Cleverly said he had “no doubt” the UK would “jump the queue” to receive the vaccine despite not having a trade agreement in place with the EU.
“If we don’t agree to a deal then why would they want to help us?” Burley shot back.
“I don’t have that degree of cynicism towards the EU,” the minister said.
The government has sought to allay fears a no-deal Brexit would hamper the flow of a vaccine into the UK.
The vaccine, which needs to be stored at a low temperature, will be transported from Belgium to Britain but could face lengthy waits at the border due to increased customs paperwork.
Responding to a clip of the interview on Twitter, @Emmselk posted: “You couldn’t make it up. Yes, James, no doubt the EU will because that’s what it’s there for. SO WHY ARE WE LEAVING.”
James Cleverly “I have no doubt the EU will help us…”
You couldn’t make it up 🤦🏼♀️ Yes, James, no doubt the EU will because that’s what it’s there for. SO WHY ARE WE LEAVING 🤷🏼♀️🤦🏼♀️
— Emmselk #UnitedInDiversity (@Emmselk) December 7, 2020
Aubrey David quipped: “I’m under no illusions here. If there’s a way this government can screw up the distribution of the vaccine, they will find it.”
Steve Maslin added: “‘Er… I don’t have all the details’ seems to be a metaphor for the last 4 years.”