Preparation Urged as Brexit Withdrawal Deal is Denied by UK Parliament

January 16, 2019

The United Kingdom’s government has emphatically voted against the Prime Minister’s proposed withdrawal deal in the largest defeat the House of Commons has faced in its history. So, what is next for Brexit and, in particular, the pharma industry?

The United Kingdom’s government has emphatically voted against the Prime Minister’s proposed withdrawal deal in the largest defeat the House of Commons has faced in its history. So, what is next for Brexit and, in particular, the pharma industry?

With the heavy loss in the vote on the withdrawal deal coming as a significant blow to the Prime Minister, Theresa May, the leader of the opposition party, Jeremy Corben, has called for a confidence vote, which will take place on Jan. 16, 2019. If May survives the confidence vote, she will have further opportunity to find an alternative Brexit deal that would have more support in parliament, but if she doesn’t, there could be an alternative government or even an early general election.

However, as a result of last night’s vote outcome, the further challenges facing government, and with only a little more than 70 days left before the UK is set to leave the European Union, more calls have been made to prepare for the eventuality of a ‘no-deal’ scenario. As reported by The Guardian on Jan. 15, 2019, Europe is concerned about the recent defeat in parliament with Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission stating, “The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the UK has increased with this evening’s vote. While we do not want this to happen, the European Commission will continue its contingency work to help ensure the EU is fully prepared.”

While in the UK, Mike Thompson, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, echoed the sentiments of needing to prepare for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. In a Jan 16., 2019 statement, responding to the outcome of the Brexit vote, he said, “The focus of pharmaceutical companies is on making sure that medicines and vaccines get to patients whatever the Brexit outcome. This includes stockpiling and duplicating manufacturing processes here and in Europe. We continue to work as closely as possible with government on no deal planning. But we reiterate that ‘no deal’ would prove to be extremely challenging. With time running out, we hope parliament will come together and quickly find a solution to the stalemate and reassure patients that medicines will not be disrupted come March 2019.”

But there are potentially alternative outcomes than a ‘no-deal’ Brexit since the events of Jan. 15, 2019. As reported by the BBC, other routes that may be taken include a major renegotiation of the Brexit deal, another referendum on Brexit, an early general election, or other possibilities, such as revocation of Article 50 to cancel Brexit.

However, according to the chair of the Ethical Medicines Industry Group (EMIG), Leslie Galloway, it is now too late for a second referendum. In speaking to law firm VWV about the latest ‘EMIG Brexit Barometer’ survey results, which demonstrated a worsening in confidence of the medicines industry, she said, “It is now too late for a second Referendum unless we either revoke Article 50 or postpone it. Revocation requires only the decision of the UK government but delay, ironically, requires approval of all 27 EU member states, and it is reported that the EU see little point in delaying Article 50. So, the options will become fewer by the day …”

The next few days will be vital in determining the path for the UK and its Brexit position. Whichever route is taken, however, there will be difficult decisions and uncertain times ahead for all industries, including pharma.

Sources: The GuardianABPIBBCVWV