Boris Johnson addresses UK one year on from first lockdown
Britain’s vaccine rollout has been hailed as a success around the globe after more than half of all adults have received their first dose of a vaccine. But after begging European leaders to abandon threats on export bans, Mr Johnson risked reigniting a vaccine war.
Speaking to MPs at the 1922 Committee yesterday, Mr Johnson said: “The reason we have the vaccine success if because of capitalism, because of greed my friends.”
After realising his blunder, the Prime Minister added: “Actually, I regret saying it.”
He then urged MPs to “forget I said that”.
However, BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg said Mr Johnson’s comment was a “crack at Chief Whip, Mark Spencer”.
Boris Johnson vaccine blunder exposed
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
She said: “One of those present says Johnson was having a crack at Chief Whip, Mark Spencer, who was gobbling a cheese and pickle sandwich while he was talking about the vaccine.”
A source told Ms Kuenssberg it was “banter” which included a joke about “Big Pharma”, a dig at Mr Spencer being a “big farmer”.
This comes after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threatened to block exports of coronavirus vaccines to Britain an ongoing, bitter row.
As of yesterday, more than 28,000,000 people in Britain received their first dose of the vaccine.
READ MORE: EU to escalate threats on export ban despite Boris Johnson pleas
Sir Graham Brady
A further 2,363,684 people have been given their second vaccine.
But despite the successful vaccine rollout and a decrease in the number of people who have died, Mr Johnson could face a Tory rebellion over lockdown measures.
Senior Tory MPs have attacked the Prime Minister over a potential extension of the foreign travel ban.
During a Downing Street press conference yesterday, Mr Johnson said it was “too early to say” whether foreign holidays will be allowed amid the rising Covid cases across Europe.
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Coronavirus cases across the UK
He said he hopes to give an update on foreign travel on April 5, a week before the Government’s global travel task force – headed by Grant Shapps – is due to report.
But senior Tory MPs have hit back at the potential extension of the travel bans and warned the Prime Minister could face a party revolt if the measures are extended.
Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the influential Tory backbench 1922 committee, said: “I do want to cleave to the fact that the Government’s roadmap envisages international travel reopening from May 17.
“The British aviation and travel sector is working hard to ensure that can be achieved safely.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock
“With a British population that is largely vaccinated, there should be benefits in terms of the freedoms that people can enjoy.
“That should include freedom to visit family overseas and the freedom to take holidays, always accepting that there could be particular destination countries that would raise concerns.”
Henry Smith, the Tory chair of the all-party Future of Aviation Group, added: “Our aviation, travel and tourism industries has been amongst the hardest hit by Covid-19 and they desperately need a roadmap out of the restrictions as well as clear criteria on how and when they can restart.
“The Prime Minister’s inclusion of international travel in his roadmap out of lockdown brought hope to these embattled industries and extreme measures [like the travel ban] only sow confusion and risk further damaging an industry already on its knees.
Bitter row over vaccine supplies
“It is essential that the Government and global travel taskforce bring forward a risk-based framework that allows international travel to resume safely soon.
“We cannot afford another false dawn which risks the very future of our world-class aviation sector.”
This comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested while tough rules could be eased by May 17, it is too early to say whether summer holidays would be allowed to go ahead.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said the Government remains “on course” for the individual steps in the road map out of lockdown.