Brexit: Big Pharma calls for ‘frictionless trade’ and regulatory unity with EU

By Dan Stanton contact

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages/CharlieAJA
GettyImages/CharlieAJA
Roche, Merck and Lilly are among those calling for regulatory harmonisation and free movement of goods between the EU and the UK once the latter leaves the Union.

A public evidence session taking place today by the UK Government’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee will question witnesses from the pharmaceutical industry on the impact of Brexit.

“There are serious concerns raised around the future regulation of pharmaceuticals, mutual recognition of medicines, and the prospect of damaging disruption to cross-EU drug supply chains,”​ Rachel Reeves MP, chair of the Committee said ahead of the Brexit inquiry into the pharmaceutical industry.

This is very concerning, with uncertainty risking the UK becoming a less desirable place for investment and development in a growing, productive industry.”

Big Pharma, Big Concerns

The 19 submissions received by the Committee include a number from Big Pharma firms reflecting their views on the UK’s impending exit from the EU with nearly all communicating their fears about the loss of free trade and regulatory alignment.

“Frictionless trade with countries in the EU is crucial to the continued strength and development of the UK’s pharmaceutical sector,”​ Swiss firm Roche said. “This is especially important as the UK’s future relationship with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is necessary bound up with wider considerations about the UK’s relationship with the single market.”

But in the event that the UK diverges from EU medicines regulation post-Brexit, Eli Lilly urges “both sides to agree a mutual recognition agreement (MRA) to ensure continued harmonisation of medicines manufacturing standards.”

Delays and double charges

Meanwhile MSD said “it is essential we are able to trade and move goods and capital across EU borders without delays or being subjected to trade tariffs.”

The firm – known as Merck & Co. in North America – recently pledged to create 950 British jobs through a new life sciences discovery research facility, something the UK Government jumped on as part of its post-Brexit industrial strategy​.

In its statement to the Committee, J&J worries about the imposition of tariffs with the EU leading to a “double charge”​ being placed on imports and exports. “This would make it extremely challenging for business to maintain existing supply chain routes or to continue to prioritise the UK in any future supply chain planning.”

J&J has already voted with its feet, choosing to axe plans​ to build a JLab R&D facility outside Cambridge.

UK-Swedish firm AstraZeneca, which has been non-committal on a mid-to-large scale manufacturing investment at its site in Macclesfield where it makes the cancer drug Zoladex (goserelin) while negotiations on the UK’s future are ongoing, said:

“[We] would like to see an agreement negotiated with the EU that allows the UK to remain a part of the EU regulatory framework for medicines research, development, manufacture and supply. This should also ensure the continued frictionless movement of goods between the UK and EU and with those countries with which the EU has FTAs.”

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