Brexit: the week ahead as Parliament returns from its Easter Recess on ‘St. George’s Day’

The House of Commons only scheduled Brexit business is debate on three Statutory Instruments.  Select Committees will scrutinise a diverse range of Brexit-related meetings covering the budget, immigration and the UK’s trade in services.

Talks between the Opposition and the Government re-commence to try to find a “single unified approach” – that is, one that can secure the support of a majority in the House of Commons.  The Prime Minister has said that if such an approach cannot be found ‘soon’: “we will seek to agree a small number of options for the future relationship that we will put to the House in a series of votes”.

Tuesday 23 April - The Commons debate three Brexit-related Statutory Instruments (SIs):

  • The first SI concerns amending definitions in UK law for VAT on tour operators;

  • The second amends the wording of legislation on electronic communications;

  • The third makes changes to animal and plant health measures, including special controls relating to swine flu.

The Scottish Affairs Committee continues its inquiry into the future of Scottish Agriculture post-Brexit with a session examining the impact of the Government’s immigration proposals on Scottish farms.  The agri-food sector in Scotland relies heavily on seasonal and permanent employees from outside the UK.

Wednesday 24 April - Three Brexit-related evidence sessions:

  • Treasury Committee will be hearing from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, about the Spring Statement presented on 13 March 2019.  Expect questions on how the new timeline for the UK’s exit from the EU interacts with the economic outlook set out in the statement;

  • International Trade Committee continues its inquiry into the UK’s trade in services with questions to two expert panels;

  • Foreign Affairs Committee starts a new inquiry ‘Finding a diplomatic route: European responses to irregular migration.’  Two expert panels will consider the causes and consequences of irregular migration into Europe, what this means for key countries of origin, transit and reception along the Central Mediterranean route, and how the UK and its European partners – particularly France and Italy – should respond.

Update on post-Brexit access to medicines

A recently published Parliamentary ‘briefing paper’ provides an overview of current medicines regulation in the UK and EU; on Brexit negotiations so far on this issue; and views on future regulation.  It looks at the potential impacts of a no-deal Brexit scenario - and the state of Government preparations for this scenario.

How and when the UK will have access to medicines - and how their safety is ensured - has been subject to debate and analysis since the EU referendum.

Currently, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) provides and coordinates licensing, expertise and support for medicines and medical devices throughout the EU.  Pharmaceutical companies may choose to licence a medicine only in one EU country - or to use the centralised, ‘mutual recognition’ procedure - allowing them to sell a product throughout the EU.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the body responsible for licensing and regulating medicines and medical devices in the UK.  It currently works with the EMA as part of a regulatory network and undertakes a significant amount of assessments and other work on behalf of the European agency.

It is still not known how medicines will be regulated when the UK leaves the EU.  The Government have stated that it is seeking a close future relationship with the EMA.  The November 2018 Political Declaration said that the Parties would “explore the possibility of cooperation” with EU agencies such as the EMA.  There have been calls from health organisations, healthcare professionals, pharmaceutical companies and others for the Government to ensure regulatory alignment with the EMA on medicines in order to guarantee patient safety, public health and support the industry in the UK.

Concerns have been expressed about the impacts of a no-deal Brexit on medicines supply and future medicine regulation in the UK.  The Government have undertaken a range of actions to prepare for this scenario, including requiring pharmaceutical companies to stockpile medicines, securing new freight options for transporting medicines, and introducing new measures for supplying medicines in the event of serious shortages.

The paper is narrowly focused on medicines regulation and does not discuss potential changes to research funding and clinical trials regulation following Brexit.

The European Medicine Agency was based in London until 1 March 2019. Following the referendum result it has now moved to Amsterdam.

Brexit preparedness: EMA to further temporarily scale back and suspend activities.

UK loses two key strategic European Agencies.

 And in case you missed it last week’s Brexit news

  • Nigel Farage’s new ‘Brexit Party’ is on course for EU election victory - according to a YouGov poll

  • US leader of Congress, Nancy Pelosi, said that the US would not strike a trade deal with the UK if Brexit undermines the Good Friday peace agreement

  • European Council President, Donald Tusk, said he “dreams” of reversing Brexit and would not “give in to fatalism”

  • Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, warned the UK cannot have a further Brexit extension beyond the agreed October deadline saying “You cannot drag out Brexit for a decade.”

  • The Financial Conduct Authority said Brexit provides an opportunity to re-examine the future of financial regulation in the UK

  • The FT reported that moderate Conservative MPs are set to endorse a candidate for prime minister in an effort to prevent the party being dominated by Eurosceptic members after Theresa May steps down

  • The UK Government will inject £200m into the British Business Bank scheme designed to provide financing for business amid concerns over a post-Brexit reduction in funding from the EU

  • Heidi Allen MP, former and now interim leader of Change UK (the independent group) says that the party will field a full set of candidates for the European Parliament elections on 23 May.  The party doesn’t believe the talks between Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May will lead anywhere – but that a general election right now is not helpful for the UK interests.

  • Donald Trump will make a state visit to the UK in June.  It is likely to be linked to his trip to Europe in commemoration of the Normandy landing 75 years ago.  The state visit was promised by Theresa May shortly after his election to President in 2017.

Picture

Mosaic of St George in Central Lobby of the Houses of Parliament.   Design by Sir Edward John Poynter; realised by Salviati of Venice; and installed in 1869.

John ShuttleworthComment