Brexit - 6 month delays at the English Channel and other worst case scenarios

We have previously written about letters sent by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, to the life sciences industry and to the NHS about Brexit preparations.

On 7 December 2018 Mr Hancock issued three further letters. The first, which can be found here (opens PDF), is addressed to pharmaceutical companies that supply prescription and pharmacy medicines to the UK from or via the EU or EEA.

The letter refers to the draft Brexit deal agreed, but indicates that the government should still “continue to plan for all scenarios”. Mr Hancock recognises that, in addition to the six week stockpiling and air freight arrangements previously envisaged, other steps may now be needed to prepare for a no deal scenario.  He explains that, while the government has committed to ensuring that goods can continue to flow into the UK, the EU has indicated that it will impose third country border controls on goods entering the EU from the UK. This will have inevitably have a knock on impact on both exports and imports, especially at the short, closed loop Dover and Folkestone crossings, “for up to six months”. Accordingly, the government is now working on sufficient roll-on roll-off freight capacity and seeking to ensure that the flow of medicines and medical products will be prioritised. How all this will be achieved remains rather vague, however, and Mr Hancock concludes by saying his officials will be following up very shortly.

A second corresponding letter is addressed to UK medicines suppliers and can be read here (opens PDF).

In parallel, Mr Hancock issued a separate letter to UK health and social care providers largely repeating the above. He also referred to arrangements for extra storage of medicines (including the provision of government funding for this) and re-emphasised his previous message that hospitals, pharmacies and other care providers should not stockpile medicines or medical devices themselves. He explained that preparations are underway to ensure the continued supply of blood products, organs, tissues and cells etc. The letter in full can be found here (opens PDF).

Insofar as business continuity plans are concerned, Mr Hancock said that organisations should adopt a “reasonable worst case” mindset. Steve Bates of BIA responded that, “We should be under no illusions that this will be easy or smooth and today the challenge of ensuring UK medicine supply through 2019 in a No Deal Brexit scenario got harder not easier.”

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