- In an update from the U.K. government, Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, has raised the specter of border delays and "no deal," suggesting problems lasting for up to six months.
- The greatest challenges are likely to be at the crossings into Dover and Folkestone, which could affect both imports and exports.
- Over and above the existing calls for six-week stockpiling by March 29, 2019, contingency plans for the worst-case scenario – a "no deal" – will include increases in freight capacity and prioritizing medical products on alternative routes.
With just three months to go, the U.K.'s route out of the EU still isn't clear. Prime Minister Theresa May has been touting her deal around the country, to the public, and to members of Parliament but on Monday had to postpone a crucial vote on the proposal in Parliament set for this week.
No deal would leave the U.K. with "third country" status, with no agreements with EU countries over customs, travel, trade or rights, and no transition period.
Through the Medicines Supply Contingency Planning Programme, the government has already urged the biopharma industry to stockpile a minimum of six weeks' worth of prescription only and pharmacy medicines over and above existing stocks by March 29, 2019.
The head of the country's pharma lobby called for the government to open up alternative supply routes.
Mike Thompson, CEO of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said pharmas are already working to make sure that patients will continue to get access to medicines whatever the final result of the Brexit discussions. These approaches have included duplicating processes, stockpiling and changing supply routes. But he warns that there are things out of the industry's control.
"Today’s update on potential border delays for six months in a no deal scenario is stark," Thompson said in a statement. "We welcome the Secretary of State’s intention to prioritize the flow of medicines and vaccines. But with just 16 weeks until the U.K. leaves the EU, we need the detail. The government should take immediate action to open up alternative supply routes between the U.K. and Europe and tell companies so that they can make plans."
The government said if there is no deal, it is in effect powerless over third parties that will conduct border controls.
"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 U.K.," Hancock stated. "Whether this happens or not is in their hands, not ours," the update reads.