FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London, October 12, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Pool/File Photo

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry have both stressed that a deal with the European Union on medicines will be vital for patients in the UK.

This comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday (Oct 16) it was now time to prepare for a no-trade deal Brexit unless the EU fundamentally changed course, bluntly telling Brussels that there was no point in talking any more.

“I have concluded that we should get ready for January 1 with arrangements that are more like Australia’s based on simple principles of global free trade,” Johnson said.

“With high hearts and with complete confidence, we will prepare to embrace the alternative and we will prosper mightily as an independent free trading nation, controlling and setting our own laws,” he added.

Johnson’s spokesman said shortly afterwards that talks were now over and there was no point in the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier coming to London next week barring a change in approach.

“The trade talks are over: the EU have effectively ended them by saying that they do not want to change their negotiating position,” his spokesman said.

Johnson’s brinkmanship, which follows an EU demand that London make further concessions, may push Brexit towards disorder, though he still left open the possibility that the EU could reconsider and offer Britain a better deal.

“Unless there is a fundamental change of approach, we’re going to go for the Australia solution. And we should do it with great confidence,” he said.

No deal is not in the interest of patients

In response to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s comments on the progress of Brexit negotiations, Sandra Gidley, the RPS president, said: “The last few days have seen little visible progress on how the UK and EU will cooperate on medicines and health at the end of the transition period.

“Organisations across health and care will be looking to all parties to redouble their efforts on key issues such as access to medicines, the Falsified Medicines Directive, research funding, clinical trials, workforce and supporting our world-leading pharmaceutical industry.

“Amid the global pandemic of Covid-19, it’s vital the UK and EU to continue to work together to secure an agreement in the interests of patient care across Europe.”

Britain formally left the EU on January 31, but the two sides have been haggling over a deal that would govern trade in everything from car parts to medicines when informal membership known as the transition period ends on December 31.

Richard Torbett, chief executive of the ABPI, said: “No deal is not in the interest of patients, the pharmaceutical industry, or the economies of the UK and the EU. As long as a window of opportunity remains, negotiators must keep talking and agree a comprehensive deal.

“They must ensure medicines supplies are uninterrupted and that a way forward for patients in Northern Ireland is urgently found.

“Our members are preparing for the end of the transition period at the same time as coronavirus cases rise across Europe. This should be enough to focus minds.”

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