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Labour party divided on Brexit ‘People’s Vote’

Growing support for second referendum being resisted by party leaders

Members of the Labour party will vote tomorrow on keeping “all options on the table” on Brexit, with polls showing a big majority of the party backing a ‘People’s Vote’ second referendum.

A YouGov poll of Labour members commissioned by the People's Vote movement to coincide with the party conference in Liverpool shows that 90% would now vote to stay in the EU, with 86% backing a public vote on the outcome of Brexit negotiations.

Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

However Labour’s leadership, including leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell, are far from enthusiastic about the EU or a People’s Vote to reverse the Brexit vote of 2016.

They have so far supported Brexit albeit with a ‘softer’ route than proposed by Theresa May’s Conservative government, advocating a  ‘a customs union’ agreement.

Labour’s leaders would prefer to see a general election called rather than a second referendum, as this would give them a clear chance to form a government.

Theresa May’s position and her Brexit plans look increasingly embattled after an embarrassing confrontation with EU27 leaders in Salzburg last week, when her ‘Chequers’ plan was roundly rejected – making a hard Brexit now look increasingly likely.

The main sticking points between the UK and the EU27 remain the Irish border question and future trade and regulatory alignments, with little more than six months until Brexit day, 29 March 2019.

Roche CEO’s warning

The UK pharma and biotech sectors recently made it clear a no deal Brexit would be hugely damaging for the life sciences sector, a warning that has been echoed by NHS organisations, concerned not just about medicines supplies and regulations, but also the availability of migrant workers from the EU.

Against this background, pharma companies are now investing time and money into ‘no deal’ Brexit planning, including stockpiling medicines.

A warning on the long-term consequences of Brexit – particularly one where it was no longer part of the EMA – came recently from a big pharma leader.

“The UK would get markedly less competitive and less interesting for the industry as a life sciences hub,” Roche’s CEO Severin Schwan told Reuters recently:

“For us, this is a very relevant question and if the regulatory system should not keep up with Europe, then this would be a big issue for us.”

Roche has 2,100 employees in the UK, including in drug development.

“It goes without saying that we give preference in research and development activities where we bring the medicines to patients first,” Schwan said.

“Even though we very much appreciate the science and capabilities in the UK, it is not possible to disconnect that from access to innovative medicines.”

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

24th September 2018

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