Last week, the European Parliament announced its Brexit Steering Group (BSG) – which aims to coordinate the parliament’s resolution of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU – had pushed for a ‘viable backstop’ to avoid implementing a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
“The BSG reiterates its position that the successful finalisation of a withdrawal agreement (WA), providing for the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU, is an essential precondition for negotiating a future deep and special partnership between the EU and the UK, a negotiation which can only take place once the UK is no longer a Member State,” announced the Parliament in a statement.
“As recognised by the prime minister in her letter to President Tusk of 19 March 2018, the ‘backstop’ must avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, protect the Good Friday Agreement and safeguard the integrity of the single market, customs union and common commercial policy,” it added.
Industry has responded to the BSG’s position, highlighting the importance of a WA that facilitates import and export access to pharmaceutical drugs.
Whatever the outcome of Brexit negotiations, the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) told us it is critical that Irish patients, as well as patients across Europe, continue to access their medicines without disruption.
“Every month, 45 million patient packs of medicine are supplied from the UK to the EU27, and 37 million patient packs are supplied from the EU27 to the UK. That’s one billion medicine packs per year,” said IPHA director of communications and advocacy, Bernard Mallee.
“For more than a year now, IPHA has engaged with key state authorities…on planning for the management of medicines availability. Our shared goal is continuity of medicines supply for patients in Ireland, whatever the outcome of the Brexit talks,” he told us.
BioPharmChem Ireland (IBEC), a business association representing the biopharma and chemical sectors, also underlined the importance of a ‘soft’ border designed to limit the risk of drug shortages.
“A hard border would be negative in impact. It would make the import and export of drugs more difficult [and] could impact drug delays,” director Matt Moran told us, adding: “It could also be an issue for companies employing staff from across the border.”
“We are supporting of the BIA (Irish BioIndustry Association} positon regarding alignment to EMA,” Moran told us.
IDA Ireland: ‘Businesses welcome certainty’
The Industrial Development Authority (IDA Ireland) told us that from a foreign investment perspective, the Republic of Ireland’s pharmaceutical sector continues to flourish throughout Brexit negotiations.
“Over the course of 2018, IDA has been expanding its Brexit-focused conversations with investors across a range of sectors, including pharmaceuticals,” IDA’s head of life sciences, Michael Lohan, told us.
“Businesses welcome certainty, and Ireland has been able to provide that stable environment in which to invest,” he added.
According to Lohan, the Republic of Ireland has won a number of Brexit-related investments to date: “There is an increasing trend of lifescience investments, which have an element driven by Brexit, and the necessity for business certainty.”
With major pharmaceutical and biotech companies operating in the Republic of Ireland, including Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, Gilead, and AbbVie, Lohan said there is a “strong cluster” at present.
“That said, we cannot be complacent. As a small open economy, Ireland is heavily exposed to external geopolitical developments. The only way we can guard against this rapid change is by making sure our economy remains competitive,” he added.