Social media giants have been called on to censor misleading posts from MPs which suggest the fast approval of a Covid-19 vaccine is thanks to Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Matt Hancock, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Alok Sharma were among the members of cabinet to make the spurious claims yesterday, all of whom were quickly shot down by scientists and regulators.
Asked by presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer whether the swift approval had been a “benefit of Brexit”, the Health Secretary said:
“Well, that’s right. It is absolutely clear that because we’ve left the EU, I was able to change the law so that the UK alone could make this authorisation decision.”
But his comments were quickly rebuked by Dr June Raine, head of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which approved the vaccine, who said:
“We’ve been able to authorise supply of this vaccine under provisions under European law which exist until January 1st.”
Dear @HoCStandards— Marina Purkiss (@MarinaNigrelli) December 3, 2020
We expect you’ve been notified of the proven lies tweeted yesterday by following Tory MPs re Brexit and vaccine roll-out:@Jacob_Rees_Mogg @MattHancock @Mike_Fabricant@NadineDorries
We look forward to your response.
Despairing UK citizens
Hey @TwitterSupport. Can we start flagging politicians tweets for misinformation, outside of the US? I would humbly suggest you start with Jacob Rees-Mogg. Today. As in now. This moment. Many thanks.— Dr. Jennifer Cassidy (@OxfordDiplomat) December 2, 2020
Other prominent politicians have also been called out for spreading misinformation, with people asking Twitter to censor the claims in the same way it did with US President Donald Trump during the election.
Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons, said “we could only approve this vaccine so quickly because we have left the EU”, while Alok Sharma received a dressing down after he hailed the day “the UK led humanity’s charge against the disease”.
This isn’t an accidentally misleading tweet. It is foul 💩 and a deliberate lie. The Ministerial code needs bringing up to date ASAP to end the careers of misleading nonsense peddlers like Mogg. https://t.co/XzEVDi6nfV— Neil Coyle (@coyleneil) December 2, 2020
Why is it so difficult to recognize this important step forward as a great international effort and success. 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. https://t.co/SE4XDG4P0o— Andreas Michaelis (@GermanAmbUK) December 2, 2020
Tory MP Michael Fabricant and Nadine Dorries also credited Brexit for the speedy approval, to much derision online:
If brexit is so great, why do you feel the need to lie like this— James Felton (@JimMFelton) December 2, 2020
No one should be in any doubt about how it is that we can start rolling out the vaccine next week. A month ago, we changed the regulations to exempt us from requiring EU approval. We would still be waiting if we hadn’t. Thanks to #Brexit we can now move ahead swiftly and safely— Nadine Dorries 🇬🇧#StayAlert (@NadineDorries) December 2, 2020