Boris Johnson, the UK’s gaffe-prone Prime Minister, makes frantic attempts to row back on comments made in a private meeting with lawmakers from his Conservative party on Tuesday night.
During the weekly “1922 Committee” meeting of Conservative backbenchers, Johnson made an unguarded comment in which he claimed that the UK’s successful vaccine rollout was “because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends,” multiple sources who were on the call have confirmed to CNN.
Realizing how controversial his comments could be if made public, Johnson then retracted them almost immediately, according to the sources, saying, “actually, I regret saying it … forget I said that.”
Johnson’s spokespeople have declined to provide CNN with a comment on the matter.
A spokesperson for the opposition Labour party told CNN: “The idea that acts of selfishness … have got us through this crisis seems very odd: It’s hard to work out where the Prime Minister is coming from there.”
The timing of these comments could be troubling for the Prime Minister, as the European Commission prepares to lay out its plans for stricter export controls on Covid-19 vaccines produced within the bloc.
Brussels’ vaccine plan has been hindered by supply and distribution problems.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is expected to target companies within the EU that the Commission believes are not honouring the contracts signed with Brussels when it negotiated deals for vaccines on behalf of the 27 member states.
The plans are also expected to include new powers allowing the EU to withhold deliveries to countries that do not reciprocally export vaccines back to the EU.
Leaders from the EU’s 27 member states will meet virtually on Thursday to discuss the Commission’s recommendations.
Leaders from Germany and Ireland have already urged caution over export measures that would target countries.
The UK, which opted not to take part in the EU’s vaccine strategy, has been rolling out its program to immunize citizens notably faster than the rest of the continent.