Last-ditch attempt to secure ‘bare minimum’ deal on medicines, MPs told
The Chief Executive of the UK’s pharmaceutical industry association has today warned MPs about the consequences of not agreeing a comprehensive post-Brexit trade deal or an urgent agreement on medicines while the trade talks continue.
Companies are working in a constant state of emergency, preparing for all possible Brexit outcomes. We have been very clear about the need for a comprehensive FTA for four years and yet we now find ourselves in the final hours requesting the bare minimum in order to safeguard patients. Richard Torbett
Richard Torbett told the Commons EU Future Relationship Committee that negotiators must consider the impact of causing unnecessary disruption and delays for UK and EU medicines whilst in the midst of a global pandemic.
The Committee heard that companies were working in a constant state of emergency with supply chains under incredible pressure from COVID-19:
"We need the bare minimum in order to safeguard risk to the supply chain [for medicines]. If we don’t get this there will be increased complexity, duplication and cost – the last thing we need during COVID-19. The lack of clarity is frustrating."
He said that without a Mutual Recognition Agreement the industry across Europe will be wrapped in red tape, which will be damaging to both the UK and the EU.
And with 15 days until the deadline for negotiations to end there is still no clarity about how companies are meant to legally dispense the vast majority of medicines in Northern Ireland. A one-year ‘phase in’ to the Protocol is the only way to avoid disruption:
"We're still not clear whether medicine coming from the EU into the UK and then onto Northern Ireland would have to be tested again. If somebody decides at some stage they need to be tested, those facilities don't exist."
Speaking after the Committee session, Richard Torbett said:
“Companies are working in a constant state of emergency, preparing for all possible Brexit outcomes. We have been very clear about the need for a comprehensive FTA for four years and yet we now find ourselves in the final hours requesting the bare minimum in order to safeguard patients.
His remarks follow a joint appeal by the ABPI and EFPIA – the European pharma trade body this week. The trade bodies asked negotiators to prioritise medicines in trade talks – which is well within their gift as wider trade talks progress.
Not reaching an agreement risks avoidable, short-term medicines supply delays as well as long-term economic damage to the UK and EU economies. But with just 15 weeks to go until the end of the transition period – and with the focus rightly on COVID-19 - companies are still working in the dark on some critical issues.
Last modified: 20 September 2023
Last reviewed: 20 September 2023