Double, Double, Toil, and Trouble? The Brexit Cauldron May Bubble Away Until Halloween Under New Extension

April 12, 2019

Brexit has the potential to rumble on until Oct. 31, 2019 as the UK is granted a further six-month extension by European Union leaders.

Brexit has the potential to rumble on until Oct. 31, 2019 as the United Kingdom is granted a further six-month extension by European Union leaders; however, the overriding sentiment from Europe is that the extra time should be used ‘wisely’.

After failing to pass the withdrawal agreement through parliament, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has secured a further extension to Brexit, which means the UK can remain within the EU until Oct. 31, 2019. Despite May’s desire to leave the EU earlier than this extended deadline date, there is seemingly no parliamentary progress with ministers still at loggerheads.

Responding to the extension, Stephen Phipson, CBE, CEO of Make UK, the manufacturers’ organization, said, “Make UK has always been primarily motivated by avoiding the risk of no deal. We are pleased that [the] agreement in Brussels ensures that we do not leave the EU on Friday in a manner that would do serious and long-term harm to many parts of British manufacturing. However, we have been very clear about the economic damage that no-deal preparations are having on many small and medium-sized firms, who have had to invest heavily in building up and maintaining stockpiles of parts and materials at great cost. Having to now pay for warehousing and storage for many more months will come as a heavy blow. We call on the Government and Opposition to move very quickly to agree a solution which Parliament can support and which delivers frictionless trade, regulatory alignment, access to labour and a long transition period. If this cannot be achieved, we have already made clear that we feel the Government needs to revoke Article 50 rather than continue with constant extensions to this uncertainty. The horror show has to end well before Halloween.”

Added to this, there is still the threat that the UK could crash out of the EU with no-deal if the country does not participate in the EU elections, set to take place on May 23, 2019. During a recent conference in the UK-Pharmaceutical Industry Network Group (PING) conference held in conjunction with Ethical Medicines Industry Group-pharma experts discussed the potential effect of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit on the industry, highlighting best practices for preparation of this potential eventuality.

During the event, various pharma experts highlighted the impact that Brexit, in particular a no-deal scenario, would have on the industry, with only research and development seemingly being unaffected by the UK’s exit from the EU. Summarizing the conference, Paul Gershlick, VWV's PING chair and partner and head of Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences sector commented, “There is no bigger issue facing everyone than Brexit. In light of the uncertainty and challenges, the conference provided much insight and information to pharma businesses. Given the current uncertain circumstances, the messages were encouraging and we hope to see a bright future for pharma and life sciences in the UK and in co-operation with our European neighbours.”

Furthermore, in a recent report from The Independent newspaper, it was revealed that vital medicines used to manage epilepsy, cancer, and life-threatening asthma attacks, among other products, are already facing shortages. A ‘concessions list’, compiled by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, includes 93 medications that need to be subsidised by the UK government, which is claimed to be a result of Brexit in addition to the UK being seen as a ‘less attractive market’.

Sources: Make UKVWV,The Independent