Keir Starmer Apologises After Fierce Clash Over EU Vaccine Claims In The Commons
Labour leader Keir Starmer has been forced to apologise after a fiery exchange with the Prime Minister about the European Medicines Agency, when he claimed the Prime Minister had been talking "nonsense".
Boris Johnson had said repeatedly throughout Prime Minister's Questions that Starmer had wanted to join the European Medicines Agency, which has been far slower at giving vaccines the green light than the UK.
Starmer hit back saying: "Nonsense. The Prime Minister knows I've never said that from this despatch box or anywhere else but the truth escapes him."
The Labour leader has infact said on five occasions that it would be better to stay in the EMA, twice at the despatch box in the Commons in 2017.
A spokesperson for Keir Starmer said: “On a number of occasions the Prime Minister has wrongly claimed that Labour wanted to join the EU’s vaccine programme. That is inaccurate and the claim has been found to be untrue.
“This afternoon during Prime Minister’s Questions, Keir misheard the Prime Minister and assumed he was making the same false accusation again.
“Keir accepts that, on this occasion, the Prime Minister was referring to old comments about the European Medicines Agency and Keir admits he was wrong and made a mistake in his response.
“It’s not Labour policy to join either the European Medicines Agency or the EU vaccine programme. We have never called for the UK to be in the EU vaccine programme. We remain committed to working with the Government to ensure we can be the first in the world to roll out the vaccine.”
Earlier in the day, rumours that the Labour leader had been pulled away from Johnson by fellow Labour MP Chris Matheson in the voting lobbies as their spat continued, was dismissed as “bollocks”.
The shadow minister for the media, told PoliticsHome, that Starmer and Johnson walked out together and exchanged words.
"That I had to pull him away? Bollocks. He wasn’t rattled. I didn’t have to hold him back,” he said.
Johnson's suggestion that Starmer wants to be in the European Medicines Agency, implies that had Labour been in charge, Britain would not have achieved it’s widespread and successful vaccine roll-out.
The Tories found five examples of when Starmer said the UK should attempt to remain part of the European Medicines Agency, all from 2017. He said: "Why would we want to be outside the EMA, which ensures that all medicines in the EU market are safe and effective?"
At that time membership of the EMA was in the Labour Party manifesto.
In 2018, Theresa May shared a similar opinion, and in her Mansion House speech she said the government could seek associate membership of the organisation.
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