Jacob Rees Mogg accused of spreading ‘fake news’ over claim vaccine approval was down to Brexit

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Watch: Jacob Rees-Mogg accused of ‘fake news’ over Brexit vaccine tweet

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been accused of spreading “fake news” after he claimed the COVID vaccine was approved quickly in the UK because of Brexit.

On Wednesday, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the jab developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, while the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has yet to do so for the EU.

Rees-Mogg jumped on the news, tweeting: “We could only approve this vaccine so quickly because we have left the EU.

“Last month we changed the regulations so a vaccine did not need EU approval which is slower.”

Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg arrives in Downing Street in central London to attend Cabinet meeting held at the Foreign Office on 01 December, 2020 in London, England. Today MPs in the House of Commons will vote on the new tiered Coronavirus restrictions as the four week lockdown across England comes to an end. (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed the quick COVID vaccine approval was down to Brexit. (Getty)

However, MHRA chief June Raine said the approval was made using provisions under European law, which still binds the UK until the end of the year.

Speaking in the Commons on Thursday morning, deputy leader of the House, Valerie Vaz, urged Rees-Mogg to “take back his tweet” in light of Raine’s comments.

She said: “We've had fake news. The approval of the vaccine has nothing to do with Brexit.”

But Rees-Mogg called the approval of the vaccine a “British success” and accused the European regulator of being “a bit sniffy about it”.

He told MPs: “The UK should be really proud that our regulator got in first and we notice that the European regulator is a bit sniffy about it, wishes we hadn’t done it, and that Germany and France and other European countries haven’t managed to do the same thing.

“We have, we’re leading, draw your own conclusions, as I’m sure the British public will.

“We are now free of the dead hand of the European Union and will be even more free from that on 1 January.”

He added: “It is a huge British success of which we should be proud and pleased.”

Brexit was also credited as the reason for the speedy approval of the vaccine by health secretary Matt Hancock, who said the Europeans are “moving a little bit more slowly”.

Hancock told Times Radio: “The reason we’ve been able to move this fast, and the UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically authorised vaccine, the reason is twofold.

“Firstly, because the MRHA has done a great job of working with the company to look at that data as it’s come through and do things in parallel, rather than one after the other as they normally would, that’s the first reason.

Watch: Boris Johnson warns against ‘over-optimism’ following vaccine approval

“The second reason is because, whilst until earlier this year we were in the European Medicines Agency (EMA), because of Brexit we’ve been able to make a decision to do this based on the UK regulator, a world-class regulator, and not go at the pace of the Europeans, who are moving a little bit more slowly.

“We do all the same safety checks and the same processes, but we have been able to speed up how they’re done because of Brexit.”

Hitting back at Hancock’s claims, German MEP Pieter Liese, a member of the European parliament’s public health committee, said individual EU member states could have authorised the vaccine but had chosen to wait for the EMA to examine more information rather than follow the “hasty” UK example.

The EMA suggested that it was imposing more stringent checks than the emergency process used by the MHRA.

A refrigerated truck drives out of the Pfizer Manufacturing plant in Puurs, Belgium, on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British officials on Wednesday authorized a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, greenlighting the world's first shot against the virus that's backed by rigorous science and taking a major step toward eventually ending the pandemic. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
A refrigerated truck drives out of the Pfizer Manufacturing plant in Puurs, Belgium. (AP)

A spokeswoman said: “The temporary authorisation of the vaccine by the MHRA is not a marketing authorisation.

“It differs from marketing authorisations in the level of evidence submitted and checks required.”

Downing Street did not back Hancock’s claim about Brexit.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It is clear that we are the first country in the world to approve this vaccine and it is incredibly positive news that we will be able to start to distribute it.”

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