Boris Johnson Makes Extraordinary Claim That Brexit 'Helped Save Lives'

But experts say decisions around the Covid-19 vaccine had little to do with leaving the European Union.
Boris Johnson delivers a speech at a 'Vote Leave' rally in 2016.
Boris Johnson delivers a speech at a 'Vote Leave' rally in 2016.
Ian Forsyth via Getty Images

Boris Johnson has made an extraordinary claim that Brexit “helped save lives” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The former prime minister alleged it was “literally true” that leaving the EU saved lives and that he was “proud” of it.

Johnson has recently made a series of interventions in media interviews while his allies continue to urge him to make a comeback.

Only this week Johnson condemned prime minister Rishi Sunak’s decision not to send British fighter jets to Ukraine.

In an interview with fellow Tory MP Nadine Dorries, Johnson said: “It is absolutely the case that had it not been for our ability to do our own regulation, had it not been for the fact that we’d come out of the European Medicines Agency, the MHRA, the medical health regulation agency, was now totally free to decide how fast to approve the vaccine - we wouldn’t have been able to do that vaccine rollout so fast.

“And you know, it is literally true that Brexit helped save lives.

“And people’s eyes bulge a bit when you say that, but it happens to be true…I’m proud of that. I’m proud of all the work that those people did.”

However, experts have disputed such claims, saying that decisions around the Covid-19 vaccine had little to do with leaving the European Union.

Asked whether Brexit had sped up the process, the head of the MHRA, Dr June Raine, previously said: “We have been able to authorise the supply of the vaccine using provisions under European law which exist until 1 January.”

She added that the regulator’s “speed or our progress has been totally dependent on the availability of data in our rolling review, and the rigorous assessment and independent advice we have received”.

Independent website Full Fact has also dismissed claims that the UK was able to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine more quickly because of Brexit.

They said: “This is not correct. Under European law, the UK was permitted to act independently to approve the vaccine in an emergency.”

Transport minister Richard Holden was asked to name the three “best achievements” of Brexit on the third anniversary of the UK’s departure from the European Union.

But when he named the Covid vaccine roll-out as his first example, LBC presenter Ferrari told him that was “not true”.

Ferrari interrupted: “Well, you will be aware of course the independent website Full Fact say that’s not true. And even the boss of our own MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) Dr June Raine has also said that’s not true. So can we strike that one out?”

Holden conceded that he was “absolutely right” and the country could have done it “within the EU”.

But he added: “I think the pressure, if we’d been in the EU to be part of an EU scheme, would have been quite unbelievable.”

Earlier this week senior Tory MP Dame Andrea Leadsom insisted that leaving the EU will be “the best decision we ever made” on a special episode of BBC’s Newsnight.

Johnson’s interview on Friday Night with Nadine launches on TalkTV this Friday at 8pm.


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