Coronavirus: Regulator rejects Matt Hancock’s claim that UK got vaccine first because of Brexit

Britain’s medicines regulator has contradicted claims by health secretary Matt Hancock that the UK got the first coronavirus vaccine faster because of Brexit.

And Mr Hancock’s boast of a “Brexit bonus” was later effectively slapped down by Boris Johnson, when the prime minister twice declined to claim any role for EU withdrawal in speeding up the approval of the jab.

Speaking shortly after the announcement that the Pfizer/BioNTec jab had been cleared for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), Mr Hancock said that the authorisation process was faster than in the EU because Britain was no longer a member.

But asked if this was the case, MHRA chief executive June Raine said the process was undertaken under the terms of European law, which remains in force until the completion of the Brexit transition at the end of 2020.

The discrepancy emerged as Germany’s ambassador to the UK hit out at ministers’ claims that authorisation of the vaccine developed by a German company was a win for Britain.

“Why is it so difficult to recognise this important step forward as a great international effort and success?” tweeted Andreas Michaelis. “I really don’t think this is a national story. In spite of the German company BioNTech having made a crucial contribution, this is European and transatlantic.”