A no-deal Brexit could create disruption over importing and exporting medicines at the Anglo-French border for up to six months, the Government has predicted.
In a letter published on 7 December, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said Britain exiting the European Union without a deal will “significantly” reduce access across the channel for “up to six months”.
On 23 August, Mr Hancock asked pharmaceutical companies to hold an extra six weeks worth of medicines supplies at all times if the Government failed to reach a Brexit deal by the 29 March deadline.
Mr Hancock said: “The European Commission has made it clear that, in the event of a no-deal scenario, it will impose full third country controls on people and goods entering the EU from the UK.
“These impacts are likely to be felt mostly on the short straits crossings into Dover and Folkestone, where the frequent and closed loop nature of these mean that both exports and imports would be affected. The revised cross-Government planning assumptions show that there will be significantly reduced access across the short straits, for up to six months.”
According to Mr Hancock, the Government has set up a medicines supply contingency planning programme to address “potential border delays”, which consists in a team supporting companies that stockpile medicines and discussing airfreight transport with suppliers of short shelf-life products.
Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) chief executive Mike Thompson argued that stockpiling medicine will not be enough to avoid border delays.
He said: “The update on potential border delays for six months in a no-deal scenario is stark.
“Pharmaceutical companies continue to do everything in their power to make sure that patients get access to medicines whatever the Brexit scenario. This includes duplicating processes, changing supply routes and stockpiling medicines in line with the Government’s guidance. However, we have been clear that there are things that are out of our control.”
Mr Hancock recognised that additional actions are needed on top of the Government’s stockpiling plans.
He said: “The Government recognises the vital importance of medicines and medical products and is working to ensure that there is sufficient roll-on, roll-off freight capacity to enable these vital products to continue to move freely in to the UK.”