Triggering Article 50

Published: 3-Apr-2017

On 29th March, the UK government triggered Article 50 which officially marks the start of the UK’s exit from the European Union. Home to a world-leading life science industry, the countdown of Britain leaving the EU has inevitably created a stir within the UK’s pharmaceutical industry

The process of exiting the EU is supposed to take two years however many people believe that it could take longer. Matters such as agreeing new trading relationships, establishing what tariffs and other barriers to entry are permitted, and agreeing on obligations such as free movement are but a few of the issues that need to be tackled. The timescale can be extended, but only by the unanimous consent of the European Council. The terms of exit will be negotiated between Britain’s 27 counterparts, and it would be naiive to suggest that these negotiations will be easy for the UK. Britain’s decision to leave the EU has been the single most devastating event to have happened to the EU since its creation in 1957, and because no one has ever left the EU before, there is an increasing feeling of uncertainty about the future of the UK’s economy.

For the pharmaceutical industry, there is particular concern over the following:

  • Innovation, including access to science funding and collaboration
  • Regulation, including the European Medicines Agency
  • Talent, including access to highly-skilled talent
  • Commercial, including steps to enable 'frictionless trade

Its imperative that the government address these issues and keep the pharmaceutical industry at the heart of its Brexit negations

The BioIndustry Association (BIA) is uniquely placed to provide insight and advice to the government from pharmaceutical experts in the business. The BIA represent innovative enterprises involved in UK bioscience, encouraging and promoting the bioscience sector within the UK economy.

Commenting on the triggering of Article 50, BIA CEO, Steve Bates OBE said:

“During the negotiation, the BIA will continue to provide dispassionate insight and commentary on the Brexit process. We will continue to make our members’ expertise available to the government and its key agencies in the coming weeks and months as we work through highly complex and technical issues.”

The BIA are encouraging the government to make early agreements on matters such as the regulation of medicines, and the regime enabling non UK-nationals to work in the UK. They say this will assist speedy and continuing investment to the UK pharmaceutical industry, as well as keeping patients who rely on access to innovative healthcare a top priority.

Similarly, the National Office for Animal Health (NOAH) produced a statement in reaction to the triggering of Article 50. NOAH represents businesses involved in the research, development and sale of animal medicines, representing over 90% of the UK animal medicines market. Whatever exit deal the UK government secures, it needs to allow the animal health sector to continue to grow and build upon opportunities. Its contribution to the UK’s economy, food security and society makes the industry an important stakeholder for Brexit.

NOAH Chair Cat Sayer said:

“It is good to see science, research and innovation included as a key pillar in the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper. Our sector, with its important role in food production and societal wellbeing, as well as the support it gives to the economy is an important part of that.”

Life sciences is a strong industry in the UK, where each life science job supports a further 2.5 jobs elsewhere within the UK1. The sector makes a significant contribution to the UK economy, as well as providing highly skilled employment. Despite the many challenges that will rise from the triggering of Article 50; experts tend to agree that there is a real opportunity for the industry to grasp a chance to renegotiate complex regulations and barriers to entry which can hinder the growth of this innovative market.



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