Alliance Party Deputy Leader, Stephen Farry MP, has welcomed the announcement today of a bespoke set of proposals from the European Union to ensure the flow of medicines early access to new drugs for Northern Ireland. He expressed his hope that this now constitutes a sustainable solution.
The proposals cover generic medicines, access to life-saving drugs, regulatory functions, batch-testing, manufacturing authorisation, and packaging. The UK would need to give assurances to avoid flows into the EU Single Market. The EU will legislate to facilitate this over the coming months, with a revised transition period in place until the end of December 2022.
Dr Farry dismissed the notion that threats had delivered this progress, and stressed that discussions in this area had been ongoing for most of this year. The party has reiterated its commitment to finding pragmatic solutions on other Protocol-related challenges.
Stephen Farry said: “This is a welcome announcement from the European Union. While we do need to consider the detail, hopefully, this now represents a sustainable solution to one of the challenges posed to Northern Ireland by a hard Brexit.
“It is disappointing that this is only an EU announcement rather than a joint agreement with the UK Government. They seem determined to wait for an overall package rather than banking agreement on issues as we go. Nevertheless, I hope that the UK will facilitate this and provide the associated guarantees.
“Reaching an outcome on medicines was crucial before the end of the grace period at the end of this month as legal certainty needs to be in place for a highly regulated area such as medicines in relation to EU law.
“Like the overall Protocol itself, the challenges around the flow of medicines are reflections of Brexit itself. We have been focused on finding pragmatic solutions on this on other challenges, while seeking to take advantage of the dual market access that the Protocol offers, including for the NI Pharma sector.
“Alliance has prioritised the medicines issue since the conclusion of the Withdrawal Agreement. We called for a grace period, and subsequently supported efforts to find a sustainable way forward on medicines ever since.
“In our discussions with Maros Sefcovic, it has always been clear that they wanted to prioritise a solution in the most sensitive medicines area. This commitment predates any ultimatums that may have been imposed by the DUP or sabre-rattling by the UK Government around triggering Article 16.
“We now look forward to speedy resolution of other issues that need to be addressed to ensure the smooth implementation of the Protocol.”