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Pharma asked to consider 5 things as no-deal Brexit looms again

Second round of MPs' indicative voting fails to produce majority


Pharma companies in the UK have been told to keep preparing for a no-deal Brexit, as a deadlock in Parliament means the country is inching closer to the new exit date of Friday 12 March.

Last night MPs in the House of Commons cast ‘indicative votes’ on their preferred options for Brexit for a second time, but each of the four options were all defeated, signalling a deeply divided Parliament.

Despite this seeming lack of progress towards compromise and consensus, two of the motions came close to gaining a majority in favour: membership of the customs union, put forward by veteran Conservative backbencher Ken Clarke, lost by a margin of just 10 votes.

Meanwhile a motion to ensure any Brexit deal passed by Parliament would have to be put to a second referendum gained the most votes, 292. However deep-seated opposition to compromise on membership of the customs union and a second referendum in the Conservative party could make a breakthrough via MPs impossible to find.

Membership of a customs union – the option which came closest to receiving a majority, losing 276-273.  A full 37 Conservative MPs broke away from government strategy to vote in favour, along with support from Labour. However opposition from most Tory MPs, the DUP, Liberal Democrats and the new Change UK group were its downfall.

Confirmatory public vote – The ‘Kyle-Wilson’ motion - obliging Parliament to ratify any exit deal with a new referendum. This won the greatest number of MP votes, but was nevertheless defeated 292-280.

“Common Market 2.0” – Proposing membership of EFTA and a customs arrangement, this was defeated 282-261.

‘Parliamentary supremacy’ –  Defeated 292-191. This proposes that Parliament would again vote on 10 April (two days before the exit date) on whether to leave without a deal. If ‘no-deal’ were rejected, Article 50 would be revoked and an inquiry set up to establish whether any form of Brexit could command a majority.

Prime minister Theresa May and her ministers are taking part in a five-hour cabinet meeting today in an attempt to forge a way forward, despite the cabinet also being deeply divided along former ‘Remain’ and Brexiteer lines.

Frustration is also growing among leaders of the EU27, with chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, acknowledging that a no-deal is now ‘more likely’, though still avoidable.

A decision on whether or not to offer the UK a long extension to its Brexit deadline will be made at an emergency EU summit on 10 April, just two days before the scheduled departure. Some member states, notably France, are pushing for the process to be wrapped up quickly, even if that means risking a no-deal Brexit, which would be damaging to European economies as well as the UK.

Steve Bates

The BIA's Steve Bates

Commenting yesterday on the seemingly endless political drama, Steve Bates, chief executive of UK biotech association the BIA, acknowledged the difficulties it was causing the life sciences sector.

“I know many of you are, at high cost, making contingency plans for all eventualities,” he wrote in his blog. “I am equally well aware of how the Westminster drama provides an unhelpful backdrop to those seeking global investment into UK businesses."

The UK regulator the MHRA is continuing to produce new no-deal guidance on a range of issues, including the central goal of avoiding medicine shortages. The government has written to companies participating in its Medicines Supply Contingency Planning Programme about the National Shortage Disruption Response (NSDR) system and how that will operate in a no-deal scenario.

The government has once again asked companies to continue to prepare for no-deal (and all other scenarios) against the 12 April deadline.

It has also set out five things pharmaceutical companies can focus on to prepare:

  1. Go to for information relevant to your businesses

    Answer seven simple questions about your business on to receive the guidance that is relevant to your business. Sign up for email updates here
  2. Find out which tariffs your business may face

    The government’s Technical Notice provides businesses and the public with further guidance on tariffs for goods in a no-deal scenario. A Technical Notice for businesses about government plans to ensure continuity for the UK’s existing trade agreements if there is no Brexit deal is also available.
  3. Prepare for new customs and VAT procedures at the border

    Businesses will need to complete additional paperwork and register for an EORI number to move goods between the UK and EU. The specific actions needed to take on customs, including simplified procedureshere and details on VAT changes here
  4. Ensure you follow regulations to sell medical products in the EEA and UK

    Medical suppliers will need to establish their MAHs, applicants and QPPV in the EEA to sell any products there. Businesses will also need UK establishments by the end of 2020 to sell in the UK
  5. Continue Right to Work checks and support EEA and Swiss citizens

    Ensure you continue to conduct Right to Work checks for new employees using an EEA or Swiss citizen’s passport or national identity card, support employees applying to the EU Settlement Scheme and inform those arriving after a ‘no deal’ exit about European Temporary Leave to Remain.

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

2nd April 2019

From: Healthcare



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