‘It’s because of greed, my friends’: Boris Johnson says UK left EU trailing in its wake over Covid vaccines through self-interest… but later apologises and insists he ‘regrets’ remark
- Boris Johnson made comments during private meeting of the 1922 Committee
- He said: ‘The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism…’
- But the Prime Minister then repeatedly asked MPs to ‘forget’ he had said it
Boris Johnson risked inflaming the EU row last night by joking with MPs that Britain had got the jabs ‘because of greed’.
In an online meeting with Tory backbenchers, the Prime Minister hailed ‘big pharma’ for making the vaccines quickly.
He told a private meeting of the 1922 Committee: ‘The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed my friends.’
He later added: ‘Actually I regret saying it’, and repeatedly asked MPs to ‘forget I said that’.
Boris Johnson risked inflaming the EU row last night by joking with MPs that Britain had got the jabs ‘because of greed’
A Tory source said reports of the joke ‘misrepresent his views’, adding that he went on to heap praise on AstraZeneca, which is making the jab on a non-profit basis.
At the meeting, the PM also said: ‘It was giant corporations that wanted to give good returns to shareholders.
‘It was driven by big pharma – and I don’t just mean the Chief Whip.’
The Chief Whip Mark Spencer was previously a farmer.
His comments were at odds with those made at the Downing Street press conference earlier, when he sought to strike a conciliatory note.
Mr Johnson also singled out that AstraZenca were producing the vaccine at cost and thanked the company for its work (European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pictured)
‘We don’t believe in blockades of any kind of vaccines or vaccine materials,’ he said then.
‘That’s not something this country would dream of engaging in. We’ll continue to work with European partners to deliver the vaccine rollout.’
The PM said that he was ‘encouraged’ by the attitude of EU capitals towards finding a solution.
Mr Johnson also singled out that AstraZenca were producing the vaccine at cost and thanked the company for its work.