Matt Hancock ignores experts to repeat claim British fast-tracked Covid vaccine due to Brexit

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing on coronavirus (COVID-19) in Downing Street, L

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing on coronavirus (COVID-19) in Downing Street, London. - Credit: PA

Matt Hancock has ignored Britain's medicines regulator to repeat a debunked claim that Britain fast-tracked the approval of a coronavirus vaccine thanks to Brexit.

The health secretary doubled down on claims that being outside the EU allowed Britain to "change the law" to allow a speedy approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine last week, becoming the first country in the world to do so.

MORE: German minister reminds Matt Hancock Covid-19 vaccine is 'EU product' as he dismisses Brexit claims

The claim was quickly rebuked by Britain's medicines regulator.



June Raine, who heads the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said the process has been undertaken under the terms of European law, which remains in force until the end of Brexit transition period on December 31.

Pressed about those claims on Times Radio, Hancock said: "Well, I changed the law to make sure we could authorise a vaccine ahead of leaving the end of the transition period in order to do that outside of the European structures.

"The EU has clubbed together and gone as a group in buying their vaccines and are moving at their pace but we've been able to move more quickly because of that legal change to give the MHRA the power to authorise a vaccine outside of the EMA (European Medicines Agency) system."

Economist and FT columnist Tim Harford described the claims as "rather vague and untrue" during an appearance on Politics Live on Monday.

Reacting to the same accusation put forward by Brexit Party chair Richard Time, Harford iterated that the MHRA has had the power to approve vaccines in a public health emergency since 2012.

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University of Strathclyde history lecturer Tanja Bueltmann called it a "blatant lie" on Twitter. "Why was it not called out as such? And why are you giving it a second platform here without calling it out as such?"

@Sussecfox1 posted: "This isn't actually true as was established last week."

Current affairs and political commentator Keith Mills wrote: "No law was changed. Being outside the EU gives the UK the agility to move without waiting for the Brussels bureaucracy."

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