Britain’s rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines has revived the political fortunes of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Now, Mr. Johnson’s allies hope the stark disparity between Britain’s performance and the European Union’s will do something perhaps even more challenging: vindicate their larger Brexit project.
Pro-Brexit politicians and commentators are casting Britain’s vaccine deployment, which ranks among the fastest in the world, as an example of risk-taking and entrepreneurial pluck that comes from not being shackled to the collective decision-making of the 27 member states of the European Union.
With vaccination rates that are a fraction of Britain’s, threats of export bans on vaccines produced on the continent and churlish statements about British-made vaccines by leaders like President Emmanuel Macron of France, the European Union has seemingly done all it can to make it look like Britain picked the right time to leave.
“Boris Johnson is going to have a vaccine dividend, and that will give him a whole new narrative for the summer and beyond,” said Matthew Goodwin, a professor of politics at the University of Kent.
the costs of Brexit since Britain severed itself from the European Union in January — damaging disruptions to cross-channel trade and businesses choking on reams of red tape, among other headaches. And it conveniently ignores the harrowing experience many Britons had with the virus before the first vaccine “jabs” arrived last December.
Until then, Mr. Johnson’s government was known mainly for its dilatory and erratic response to the pandemic — tardy lockdowns, frequent policy reversals, muddled public messaging and a hapless test-and-trace system — all of which contributed to Britain having the highest death toll in Europe.
Now, though, the prime minister’s approval ratings have recovered, powered largely by the public’s enthusiasm about the vaccine rollout. In a new survey, 67 percent of respondents said they thought Britain had performed better on vaccinations than E.U. countries. A slight plurality — 40 percent — said they thought Brexit had helped improve Britain’s handling of the pandemic, while 14 percent said it had made it worse, and 38 percent thought it had made no difference.
Mr. Johnson’s vaccine bounce, analysts point out, could be fleeting if a new variant emerges or if the economy does not recover swiftly.