Keir Starmer’s misleading European Medicines Agency remarks

Keir Starmer's misleading European Medicines Agency remarks
Keir Starmer (photo: Parliament TV)
Text settings

Oh dear. Sir Keir Starmer was in a particularly prickly mood this afternoon, as he faced Boris Johnson at PMQs, and the pair clashed over border closures.

But the Labour leader appeared most riled when the Prime Minister pointed out that Starmer had fought for Britain to stay in the European Medicines Agency – a move that could have potentially slowed our vaccine roll-out.

An indignant Starmer suggested that the PM’s claim was ‘complete nonsense’ and added that:

‘The Prime Minister knows I’ve never said that, from this Despatch box or anywhere else, but the truth escapes him.’

A strong rebuke. Mr S is curious though, was it then a different Keir Starmer who stood at the Despatch box in January 2017 and argued that:

‘Mr Speaker, let me give three examples without the details: the European Aviation Safety Agency, which deals with safety; the European Medicines Agency; and Europol, which I worked with for many years. Those are the bits of the EU that we should be seeking to retain, not throw away.’

And presumably it was another Starmer-esque imposter who again told the Commons in 2017 that:

‘That is short-sighted, as we are now finding in relation to Euratom. Why would we want to be outside the European Aviation Safety Agency, which certifies aircraft before they are allowed to fly? Why would we want to be outside the European Medicines Agency, which ensures that all medicines in the EU market are safe and effective?’

Or perhaps it is more likely that Starmer will now have to apologise to the Commons for his rather misleading remarks today…

UPDATE: Labour have issued an apology, of sorts, for Starmer's earlier EMA remarks. A spokesman released a statement, explaining that 'Keir admits he was wrong and made a mistake'. The full response below:

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.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to

Topics in this articlePoliticspmqsemaeu