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Boris Johnson is new PM – but opposition to his Brexit plans mount

Brexit rhetoric unrealistic, suggests biotech leader


Boris Johnson has been elected as the Conservative party’s new leader – and will move into 10 Downing Street as the new Prime Minister tomorrow.

The Conservative party membership gave him a resounding vote of confidence in their ballot, with Johnson gaining 92,153 votes to 46,656 for Jeremy Hunt.

The former mayor of London will take over from Theresa May on Wednesday, and praised her in his acceptance speech to the Conservative party, using his trademark humour to tackle head-on the doubts about his premiership.

“I read in the Financial Times this morning that no incoming leader has ever faced such a daunting set of circumstances...I look at you this morning and I ask myself, do you look daunted? Do you feel daunted? You don’t look remotely daunted to me.”

Johnson promised to fulfil the pledge to “Deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat Jeremy Corbyn” and bring a new ‘can do’ spirit to government and the country, which has endured more than three years of uncertainty because of Brexit.

However the mood in the country – and indeed the Conservative parliamentary party beyond the grassroots membership - is very different, with both deeply divided over the best way forward.

While there are many Conservative MPs backing Boris to re-start the stalled Brexit process, opposition among pro-Remain members of cabinet, and MPs from across parties is gaining momentum, who say none of his promises can be fulfilled.

Most notably, Chancellor Philip Hammond has resigned, and is pledging to block a no-deal exit, and any efforts to ‘prorogue’ or bypass Parliament in order to exit the EU.

Meanwhile, the UK industry associations the ABPI and BIA have been re-stating their opposition to a no-deal Brexit, and have been calling on the new administration to state their backing for the life sciences sector.

The biotech association the BIA holds a regular Brexit webinar, and in the latest update on Friday, BIA chief executive Steve Bates reiterated his call for clarity on what the new policies for life sciences and Brexit would be.

He used the webinar to warn once again against a no-deal Brexit, and the dangers of leaving the EU without close alignment with the EMEA, which he said would result in duplication of red tape, which would damage the sector.

“We have seen rhetoric from leadership candidates on no-deal, saying ‘do or die’ etcetera and that has been ramped up very hard,” said Bates.

Pointing to the rhetoric of Johnson and Hunt, he said this ramping up hadn’t been mirrored in the no-deal planning for medicines and other key commodities – something the sector will be watching closely for from today.

Like many other business commentators, the BIA pointed to what looks like a virtual impossibility of Johnson being able to renegotiate a better deal in the 100 days left before 31 October.

MPs are scheduled for their summer recess from Thursday, and won’t return until 3 September, after which point the main political parties traditionally have their conferences.  This would leave just weeks to arrive at a new deal before 31 October – just one day before the new leaders of the European Commission assume office.

The new prime minister could still bypass MPs to push through to a no-deal Brexit, but opponents inside and outside Westminster are mounting legal and parliamentary procedures to block any such move.

Commenting on these razor thin timelines, Steve Bates concluded: “I am an eternal optimist, but I also have some understanding of what is practical in terms of the disruption or the changes that can be seen in an industry that delivers real products to real patients in a complex global supply chain, and a regional supply chain, and what can be done in 100 days. I think we have to ground ourselves in that.”

Other possible options include yet another extension to the Brexit deadline – something which the incoming European Commission leader Ursula von der Leyen says she is open to – and a UK general election, which Johnson might risk in order to bolster his wafer-thin parliamentary majority.

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

23rd July 2019

From: Healthcare



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