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Biopharma body welcomes EU-UK free trade agreement docs

The UK seeks an FTA close to those agreed by the EU with Canada or Japan

Brexit

The two sides in the UK-EU trade negotiations seem to still be poles apart, but the UK biopharma industry at least is pleased about the UK government’s just-published negotiating position.

The UK published 13 documents yesterday that it said lays out “our approach to our future relationship with the EU”, providing the first public view of a position that has already been put to the European Commission in three rounds of negotiation.

In a letter to EU negotiator Michel Barnier, his UK counterpart David Frost reiterated the position that the UK does not seek to remain part of the single market or customs union, and instead is seeking a free trade agreement (FTA) that “approximates very closely those the EU has agreed with Canada or Japan”.

There are increasingly signs of acrimony between the two sides, however, with Frost accusing the EU of “insisting on additional, unbalanced, and unprecedented provisions in a range of areas”, while Barnier has said the UK’s position is “not realistic”.

The BioIndustry Association has nevertheless welcomed the UK’s stance, saying the draft free trade agreement shows that the government is “seeking vital technical measures…to enable the pharmaceutical and biotech industries to have reduced friction in trade compared to the UK exiting the EU with no deal whatsoever”.

BIA’s chief executive Steve Bates said the inclusion of “vital technical measures” in Annex 5D of the proposal – covering issues like mutual recognition, batch testing, information sharing and co-operation in clinical trials – showed that the government had listened to the biopharma industry.

“This is particularly important as continued scientific, industrial, regulatory and political co-operation will be needed as we all work together to develop vaccines and therapeutics to tackle COVID -19 and maintain medicine supply at this challenging time,” he said.

The UK left the EU on 31 January, starting an 11-month transition period in which the country continues to follow EU rules while negotiating the future relationship between the two parties.

In his letter, Frost writes: ‘Overall, we find it hard to see what makes the UK, uniquely among your trading partners, so unworthy of being offered the kind of well-precedented arrangements commonplace in modern FTAs.’

Negotiations of this type always involve a lot of bluster and posturing, but the current divide is made all the more worrisome as the UK insists it will not entertain any extension to the transition period, and will trade with the EU on World Trade Organisation rules from the start of 2021 if no agreement can be reached.

Barnier insisted the EU is not prepared to “cut and paste” sections of other trade deals, and has accused the UK of failing to understand the “mechanical consequences” of the British people’s choice to leave the EU.

Article by
Phil Taylor

20th May 2020

From: Regulatory

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