‘Polling’ All the Way

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-12-02-2019, Volume 43, Issue 12
Pages: 5

As the UK heads to the polls for an unusual December general election, industry issues manifestos on medicines while Europe rejoices some movement … finally.

Editor’s Note: This article was published in Pharmaceutical Technology Europe’s December 2019 print issue.

Not since 1923 has the general public of the United Kingdom been sent to the polling stations in the month of December (1). However, the wish of the current UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, to hold a general election a mere two weeks before Christmas (12 December 2019), has been accepted and passed through both houses of parliament (2).

This decision was taken with the hope of overcoming the stalemate surrounding Brexit. During the campaign trails, bio/pharma industry bodies launched their own manifestos, aimed at ensuring sufficient support for the pharma sector irrespective of the election outcome (3,4). And, according to Jon Henley’s report in The Guardian, European media were astounded that some movement in Westminster had finally begun (5)!

Industry manifestos

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) issued its manifesto in mid-November 2019, highlighting three main themes that the industry body believes will be integral for the UK’s life-science sector (3). These themes are ensuring the UK is the top place for patients to access cutting-edge medicines and vaccines in the world, securing the future UK–European Union (EU) relationship, and building on R&D investment.

“The next government will shape one of our country’s most valuable assets: an incredible pharmaceutical industry that employs tens of thousands and invests billions in research,” said Mike Thompson, chief executive of ABPI, in a press release (6). “We don’t just want NHS patients to get the latest breakthroughs; we want the UK to continue being home to the science that makes them possible, with all the global investment that comes with it.”

Much along the same lines, the UK BioIndustry Association (BIA) released its biotech manifesto that has called on the next government to also commit to R&D investment, maintain medicines regulations post-Brexit, and improve patient accessibility to medicines. “The UK life-sciences sector is creating innovative therapies and medicines for patients, and supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country. This general election is an opportunity for political parties to back this exciting sector, which contributes billions of pounds to the UK economy and delivers life-saving and life-enhancing medicines for patients,” said Steve Bates OBE, chief executive of BIA in a press release (7).


For the manufacturers’ organization, Make UK, the future agreement between the UK and EU is of overriding importance. “The first and foremost priority for the next government must be an agreement with the EU that also passes through parliament as soon as possible, which removes ‘no deal’ and ensures four key outcomes to safeguard the future prospects for manufacturers,” said Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK in a press release (8).

Brexit taking centre stage

As to be expected, Brexit has been the primary issue on the lips of every election campaigner. The Conservatives, with Boris Johnson at the helm, want to leave the EU with the deal negotiated earlier in the year. Jeremy Corbyn and Labour are aiming for a ‘softer’ Brexit deal and a second referendum. Whereas, Jo Swinson, leader for the Liberal Democrats, hopes to scrap Brexit altogether. And these candidates represent just the three of the parties in the house of commons. 

With numerous smaller parties also taking parliamentary seats up and down the country, there is a strong likelihood of a hung parliament, that could see many variances on the Brexit scenario for 2020 and beyond. So, there may yet be a ‘cold, cold Brexmas’ on the horizon as the future relationship of the UK and EU very aptly ‘hangs’ in the balance.


1. Parliament UK, “General Election Dates 1832–2005,” parliament.uk, 15 November 2007.
2. Parliament UK, “Early Parliamentary General Election Bill Proceeds to Royal Assent,” parliament.uk, 31 October 2019.
3. ABPI, “2020 Manifesto for Medicine,” abpi.org.uk, 14 November 2019.
4. BIA, “BIA Biotech Manifesto 2019,” bioindustry.org, 11 November 2019.
5. J. Henley, “‘Dirty Tricks Expected’: How Europe’s Media Reacted to Calling of UK Election,” theguardian.com, 30 October 2019.
6. ABPI, “UK Pharmaceutical Industry Launches General Election Manifesto,” abpi.org.uk, 14 November 2019.
7. BIA, “BIA Launches Biotech Manifesto,” bioindustry.org, 11 November 2019.
8. Make UK, “Parties Urged to Set Out Economic Vision with Focus on Growth and a Skilled Digital Economy,” makeuk.org, 13 November 2019.  

Article Details

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe
Vol. 31, No. 12
December 2019
Page: 5


When referring to this article, please cite it as F. Thomas, “‘Polling’ All the Way,” Pharmaceutical Technology Europe 31 (12) 2019.