Keir Starmer did want the UK to remain in the European Medicines Agency

3 February 2021
What was claimed

Sir Keir Starmer has never said that he wanted the UK to remain in the European Medicines Agency after Brexit.

Our verdict

This is not true. He said at least twice that the UK should seek to remain in the European Medicines Agency.

Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer disagreed over the Labour leader’s past comments during Prime Minister’s Questions on 3 February .

Mr Johnson suggested that the UK’s vaccine rollout would have been delayed had we remained in the European Medicines Agency, and said of Mr Starmer: “He wanted to stay in the European Medicines Agency, Mr Speaker, and said so four times from that despatch box.”

Mr Starmer replied: “Complete nonsense. Don’t let the truth get in the way of a pre-prepared gag. Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister knows I’ve never said that, from this despatch box or anywhere else.”

However, Mr Starmer is wrong about this. We found that he has suggested the UK should remain in the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on at least two occasions, when he was shadow Brexit minister.

On 17 January 2017, he said during a debate in the House of Commons: “Mr Speaker, let me give three examples [of European collaboration we should seek to retain after Brexit] 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.”

During another debate on 31 January 2017, he also said: “Why would we want to be outside the European Medicines Agency, which ensures that all medicines in the EU market are safe and effective?... [We] ask that consideration be given to finding ways to ensure that where we can we stay within those agencies, for the obvious benefits that they bring.”

The EMA, among other things, assesses medicines before they are authorised within the EU.

Since this article was published, journalists have reported receiving a statement from Mr Starmer's spokesperson which agrees that he made a mistake.

Update 3 February 2021

This article was updated to include the reported statement from Mr Starmer.

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