UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on Thursday tried to manoeuvre his way out of answering the question directly, when during a LBC interview, the host asked whether Brexit had something to do with Britain getting ahead of the EU and the US in approving the coronavirus vaccination.
In response, Williamson suggested that Britain has "the very best people in this country and we've obviously got the best medical regulators".
"Much better than the French have, much better than the Belgians have, much better than the Americans have. That doesn't surprise me at all because we're a much better country than every single one of them, aren't we", Williamson said.
— Rachael Venables (@rachaelvenables) December 3, 2020
He then hailed Britain's "brilliant clinicians in the regulator who've made it happen so fast, so our thanks go out to them".
Williamson's comments come after the nation's Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested that "because of Brexit" the UK had been able to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, rather than wait for a decision by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
This statement was contradicted by both Downing Street and the UK's medicines regulator.
While the UK is still under the remit of the EMA, it will cease to be after the end of the Brexit transition period on 1 January 2021.
Williamson's remark hasn't left commentators indifferent, with some calling his words "bizzare".
— David Savile (@CrunchyMoose) December 3, 2020
— Alex Andreou (@sturdyAlex) December 3, 2020
— Tim Walker (@ThatTimWalker) December 3, 2020
Other comments noted that at a time when Britain seeks to build new and strong partnerships internationally, due to Brexit, a position claiming the UK is better than everyone else would not be helpful.
— Larry the Cat (@Number10cat) December 3, 2020
This is not the first political blunder with Gavin Williamson at its centre. When serving as the Defence Secretary in 2018, he commented on Russia-UK relations in the case of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal. He said at the time that "Russia should go away and should shut up".
In 2019, he was fired from his post for allegedly leaking confidential discussions regarding the involvement of Chinese telecoms manufacturer, Huawei in the development of Britain's future 5G network. At the time he denied he had anything to do with the leak.
In July 2019, he was appointed as Education Secretary by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and still remains part of the Cabinet.