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Life after Brexit

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Life after Brexit

NPA public affairs manager Gareth Jones considers the implications if the UK were to leave the EU

Arguably the most important vote in the UK’s recent history takes place on June 23 – the referendum on continued membership of the European Union.

A possible British exit from the EU (‘Brexit’) could impact on the daily lives of community pharmacists in ways that we may not currently appreciate. A wide range of scenarios are possible.

The alternatives

We could remain full members of the EU, allowing the continued free movement of pharmacy professionals under the Directive on the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications, and also enabling parallel trade to continue under current ‘free trade’ conditions.

If we followed a Norwegian model, the UK would no longer be an EU member but would retain access to the single market, allowing free movement of goods, people, services and capital. What this might mean in terms of following certain EU legislation is unclear. For example, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) monitors medicines safety and the authorisation of medicines. An EU exit could have consequences for that institution and the UK’s relationship with it.

Independence from the EU would not mean we would be totally unaffected by decisions made in Brussels. For example, the Falsified Medicines Directive, which allows for measures to be put in place to prevent falsified medicines entering the supply chain, will apply in all member states of the European Union from February 9, 2019.

Whether or not the UK could avoid the legal obligations of the FMD following a ‘leave’ vote, remains to be seen. Norway, Iceland and Switzerland – all non-members – are still implementing this EU legislation. It is also worth remembering that exit is not an instant process and could take several years.

The wider view

From a wider healthcare perspective, no one can predict the medium to long-term future of the NHS, whatever the extent of EU influence. There have been suggestions that NHS privatisation is encouraged by the EU/US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal. This is denied by the UK government, and in fact any UK/US trade deal that followed a departure from the EU could open markets further.

As a member of the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union (PGEU) the NPA is committed to working for the benefit of UK independent pharmacies at a European level. The chances are that we will need to continue to exert influence on the European stage, whatever the decision on June 23.

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