Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Keir Starmer

“Our newfound independence has enabled us to repeatedly get ahead of events. Whether that’s with the manufacturing of lifesaving vaccines, which then gave us the ability to lift out of lockdowns…”

James Cleverly, Home Secretary, Conservative Party Conference speech

Facts

During a Conservative Party Conference speech in October 2023, Home Secretary James Cleverly claimed that the UK’s “newfound independence has enabled us to repeatedly get ahead of events. Whether that’s with the manufacturing of lifesaving vaccines, which then gave us the ability to lift out of lockdowns…”

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.”

On 27 June 2023, former Health Secretary Matt Hancock gave evidence to the official Covid inquiry. He stated that government resources were diverted away from pandemic planning to brace for the threat of a “disorganised Brexit”. He added that the UK planning attitude was entirely “geared towards how to clear up after a disaster, not prevent it”. 

Verdict

James Cleverly misled Conservative Party conference.

We emailed James Cleverly’s office offering him the chance to respond. The email was received, but no reply. We also emailed the Home Office with our analysis, they responded “I’m afraid we can only respond to media outlets, so this wouldn’t be one for us.”

Client Journalism

A similar claim to Cleverly’s was made a month later by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, who stated that “the UK’s huge success of the vaccine program is maybe tangentially but probably linked to the fact that we had left the EU at that point.” Remarkable to hear Kuenssberg – one of the UK’s most senior political journalists – lending her authority to an oft-repeated and already-debunked government lie. 

We emailed the BBC Press Office offering them the chance to respond. We received no response.

Published 28 Jun 2024
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