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Government ramps up Brexit negotiations as uncertainties remain

With just over a month until Brexit, the Government are steadfastly working to ensure the UK secures a suitable deal with the EU

They are also ramping up no deal preparations in the event negotiations fail, with both outcomes encompassing significant ramifications for healthcare.

Ongoing negotiations and subsequent lack of assurances has instilled considerable concern in many sectors, no more than healthcare where patient-led organisations, such as ourselves, harbour great apprehension about how Brexit will impact their community.

What's happened in Parliament?

Earlier this week, Theresa May agreed to give Parliament a vote on whether the country should support leaving the EU with a no-deal as well as a vote on an extension of Article 50, in the event Parliament rejects a no-deal.

Labour and SNP failed with their amendments on the Withdrawal Agreement, which will not include creating a permanent customs union with the EU as well as ruling out no-deal indefinitely.

What assurances have been given on healthcare?

Last week, the House of Commons continued to debate the approval of the draft Medicines for Human Use (Clinical Trials) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jackie Doyle-Price MP, reiterated the Government's ambition to retain a close working partnership with the EU to ensure those engaged in clinical trials can continue to develop innovative medicines as well as patients continuing to access life-saving treatments.

No substantial changes will be made on clinical trials as the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency will continue to make decisions at EU and global level, meaning the ability of the UK to participate in multinational trials in the EU or the rest of the world will remain unaffected.

In terms of medicines, if the UK leaves without a deal, the UK's participation in the European Regulatory Network would cease and MHRA would take on functions currently undertaken by the EU for medicines on the UK market.

What is still uncertain?

Undoubtedly, Brexit will cause some downturn in investment as well as provide unwarranted implications for the wider healthcare industry.

For instance, Investigational Medicinal Products imported from the European Economic Area will now require an import license, as they would no longer be part of the single market.

There are further considerations for big pharma.

Two-thirds of medicines used in the UK are imported from the EU and 90% of those come through Dover and Folkestone.

For an industry that contributes £32m to the country's economy, pressing concerns exist about how to import these medicines.

Not only medicines but also research will be significantly affected by a post-Brexit world.

Research industry executives worry about their ability to bring highly skilled scientists to the UK as well as researchers expressing concern over being frozen out of EU-funded research collaborations.

A no-deal scenario would reduce the UK's funding from the EU's Horizon 2020 programme by a projected 50%, according to a report from the House of Lords last week.

What does this mean for our community?

Despite Government assurances, the wider political struggle of the UK attempting to secure an adequate deal for the country, its industries and its people, will continue to create worry for those who rely so heavily on the EU.

In the face of this uncertainty, The Charity will endeavour to keep our community abreast of any developments affecting our disease area and will fight to ensure Brexit, whatever the outcome, will not impact those with a brain tumour negatively.

About the author

I am a Policy & Public Affairs Assistant at The Brain Tumour Charity. I respond to policy issues affecting the community to achieve our strategic goals, foster engagement with those directly affected by a brain tumour, and influence key decision makers at local and national level to ensure our community’s voice is heard and at the forefront of political debate. My studies focused on philosophy, politics and international relations.

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