Industry leaders have criticised increasing uncertainty around the government’s Brexit strategy and lack of clear contingency plans, and have emphasised their preference for a negotiated deal.
Groups representing the life sciences industry, along with those representing the NHS, have called upon Conservative leadership candidates to clarify their Brexit strategies to allow necessary preparations to be made.
The calls follow a further update from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), which is starting to re-implement plans put in place ahead of last March’s exit date, but has been reluctant to commit to significant spending on new preparatory measures.
A written statement from the Minister for the Cabinet Office, released on 26th June 2019, confirms some of the contingency preparations being taken:
- signing trade continuity agreements
- beginning the process of establishing an express freight service
- re-routing medicinal supply routes
- stockpiling and arranging extra warehouse space
- supporting traders to have the correct paperwork in place at the border
- strengthening procedures to deal with shortages
Despite these efforts, the Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, Niall Dickson, commented that:
“It is good to see the government planning for the worst – but we are running out of time to eliminate the disruption of a no deal that could put patients at risk.
“We do recognise the enormous effort that has gone into making these plans as robust as possible. But the truth is that much of this is outside of the control of the NHS and our members; that is why we continue to advocate a negotiated deal which will provide maximum protection for patients.”
The Chief Executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), Mike Thompson, added that:
“Pharmaceutical companies have been doing everything in their power to prepare for the UK’s exit from the EU. Our members have been increasing stocks, duplicating testing and planning for alternative routes where possible. However it’s clear that the sector still feels the contingency plans lack substance.”
Further, Chief Executive of the BioIndustry Association (BIA) Steve Bates OBE highlighted the implausibility of a no-deal Brexit:
“There are now only 127 days until the next possible ‘no deal’. Making changes at short notice is not easy or simple for our sector – supply chains are complex, integrated across Europe and regulated at every stage. Many products are temperature-controlled, and some deliveries can’t exceed three days or deviate from approved storage conditions. Some products have a short shelf life and can’t be stockpiled and most take longer than 127 days to produce.
A no-deal Brexit would mean the biggest dis-integration in a lifetime of the complex regulated medicines market across Europe in terms of regulation, cross border movement of goods, comparative pricing and intellectual property.”
For further information, see MAP’s Brexit-related news updates.