Gavin Williamson has claimed the UK was the first to clinically approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine because the country is “much better” than the likes of France Belgium and the US.

Williamson said the landmark moment was no surprise as the country is “much better country than all of them”.

The education secretary was appearing on LBC on Thursday morning opposite Nick Ferrari who asked whether Brexit was the reason for Britain being the first.

Williamson said: “Well I just think we’ve got the very best people in this country and we’ve obviously got the best medical regulators.

“Much better than the French have, much better than the Belgians have, much better than the Americans have. That doesn’t surprise me at all because we’re a much better country than every single one of them, aren’t we.”

Williamson’s remarks appeared to be made in jest after health secretary Matt Hancock claimed the UK was the first to approve the vaccine “because of Brexit”.

The comments from Williamson came as he was forced to respond to Dr Anthony Fauci’s claims that the UK didn’t scrutinise the Pfizer vaccine trial data as carefully as the US FDA.

Speaking to Fox News, America’s top immunologist and director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Fauci, criticised the UK’s approach.

“If you go quickly and you do it superficially, people are not going to want to get vaccinated,” Dr Fauci warned.

“We have a gold standard of a regulatory approach with the FDA, the UK did not do it as carefully.

“They got a couple of days ahead; I don’t think that makes much difference. We’ll be there, we’ll be there very soon.”

Gavin Williamson was quizzed on Dr Fauci’s comments on Good Morning Britain by hosts Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway.

Ben asked: “Why do you think he’s come out and criticised it so publicly like this?”

“Well, that’s for him to say why he’s done it,” said Williamson.

“I personally feel incredibly grateful for the amazing work that our medical regulators have put in to turn this around as quickly as possible.

“Speaking to family and friends, how grateful they are that we’re going to be in a position to see that vaccine rolled out right across the country.

The education secretary offered assurances to those who had concerns over the vaccine.

He added: “It’s going to be really, really important that we make sure people understand that this is a safe vaccine, this is a vaccine that is going to protect them.

“But not just protect them, but also their family, their loved ones and also the communities that they live in.”