Brexit must mean the UK getting out of the European Medicines Agency

Brexit must mean the UK getting out of the European Medicines Agency

Despite claiming an overall victory with the recent passage through the Commons of its Trade Bill, the Government suffered its second Brexit defeat in the Commons on the legislation. The successful amendment – passed by just four votes and tabled by the Tory Remainer Dr Phillip Lee – forces the Government to negotiate an agreement for the UK to continue participating in the European Medicines Agency (EMA) – the agency responsible for European regulation of medicines and drugs.

Dr Lee resigned as a Minister in June over the Government’s position on Brexit. Lee – who is currently misrepresenting his Leave constituency of Bracknell – believes this devastating amendment remains consistent with Mrs May’s watered-down Brexit plan. But such an important issue should not be decided in this way.

Just like the Prime Minister’s Chequers proposal, this interference from Remainers will simply undermine the prospect of a ‘Global Britain’ in the exciting post-Brexit world. The UK remaining a part of the regulatory system of the EMA is not only sabotaging the Brexit process, but will leave us in a weaker negotiating position with the EU.

The European Commission has made it clear that, after March 2019, the UK will “no longer participate in EU decision-making, EU institutions, governance of EU bodies and agencies”. We do not want to cherry-pick aspects of the Single Market, and full participation in EMA is not possible without membership of the Single Market. And any compromise on leaving the Single Market would be an act of betrayal on behalf of the 17.4 million voters in the EU referendum over two years ago.

We do not want to remain in the EU’s obstructive regulatory framework, forced to accept EU rules and regulations on pharmaceutical products and manufacturing, over which we would have no say or influence. An even more frightening and unacceptable consequence of this would be the European Court of Justice still playing a role in our affairs.

Let us be clear here. We do not need the EMA in order to continue our success in the ‘Life Sciences’ sectors. The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is already one of the most valued and highly respected drug regulators in the world. There is growing confidence within the MHRA that we can operate on our own without any meddling from Brussels – or the European Medicines Agency.

Whilst we engage with emerging markets and medicines across the world, the EMA will suffer and diminish. Without the expertise and size of the MHRA, taking on 15-20% of scientific assessments needed before a medicine is granted a licence, the European regulatory system could experience a number of future disruptions and difficulties.

At the moment, current EMA processes delay drug trials – as well as costing UK research and the NHS millions of pounds. This money could be invested in other areas of research and, most importantly, help save lives. We could wipe the slate clean and decide what is best for our own regulatory system and British medicine. We could take back control…

The vote to Leave the EU was and is about creating new opportunities and fulfilling our destiny as a truly ‘Global Britain’. Our strength in Life Sciences will continue to attract more investment, more global connections and opportunities. There are clear-cut benefits with having our own standalone UK authority – such as the ability to secure even faster access to the latest innovative medicines and devices for UK patients.

The UK is a global leader on a wide range of public health issues, like anti-microbial resistance and dementia. We also have several significant advantages over European countries. With English as our primary language and London as a global transport hub, we will continue to acquire talent from all over the globe and entice many companies to relocate their manufacturing facilities and regional headquarters to the UK.

Pharmaceutical giants like GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have been pouring millions of pounds of new investments into UK manufacturing. Despite the empty warnings from Remainers and the rest of Project Fear, big businesses continue to view the UK as an attractive country with world leading technological and scientific capabilities.

Greg Clark, the Business and Energy Secretary, has asserted investments like this are “a clear vote of confidence in Britain and underlines our position as a global business leader”.

Also, let’s not forget our pharmaceutical manufacturing industry is one of most productive and talented sectors of any major European economy. Our leading position in Life Sciences means more and more companies will choose the UK as their ideal location. The vast majority of these medicines produced will be exported to global markets and to patients all around the globe.

Dr Phillip Lee’s unhelpful amendment to the Trade Bill will only further prevent the Government from negotiating a good deal, tie us into EU rules and regulations, as well as stop us from pursuing our global ambitions. For a truly ‘Global Britain’ to succeed as a world leader, we must free ourselves from all European regulatory frameworks.

The Great British public voted to get Britain out of the EU, and this must include freedom from the European Medicines Agency.