So soon after UK’s decision to exit the EU, the recent announcement of global healthcare giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)’s £275m investment in its manufacturing sites in the UK highlights the strength of the UK as one of the established leading global centres for the life sciences industry. However, there is no doubt that Brexit has brought uncertainty, and the sector’s two main trade bodies, the ABPI (Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry) and BIA (BioIndustry Association) have been quick to put together a report, recommending to the government four key areas of prioritisation in its negotiations with the EU in the run up to Brexit. These were funding, free trade, single regulatory system, and access to talent. The report was drawn up following consultation across the sector.
There has been much concern in the scientific community as to how the British government will support scientists who fear losing their financial subsidies and grants currently funded by the EU. The sector welcomed the Chancellor’s pledge to guarantee full funding for structural and investment fund projects signed before the Autumn Statement, and the agreement to underwrite the payments of EU funding projects awards where UK organisations have bid directly to the European Commission on a competitive basis, even when the projects are due to continue beyond Brexit.. For scientists, underwriting for EU funding, such as grants from the Horizon 2020 is bound to quell some of the uncertainties over the fate of collaborative EU research projects. The sector urged the government to retain access to EU R&D funding for example, through the UK gaining “associate member” status for Horizon 2020, which is possible for non-EU member states.
Free trade and free movement of capital
The report pushed for the continuation of free trade with EU member states and access to EU negotiated Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with third countries.
Common regulatory framework
The importance of UK’s influence in regulatory procedures, and the need for the UK to remain within the same regulatory framework were emphasised. The report warned that patients may end up waiting longer to access new and innovative medicines and treatments if the UK were to become dislodged from the common regulatory framework. By way of solution, the industry advocated for the negotiation of regulatory co-operation agreement with the EU.
Access to the best talent
Unsurprisingly, brain power is necessary to drive innovation and generate new treatments. Thus, for the industry to remain strong in the UK, its immigration system needs to facilitate easy access for talented students, researchers and workers. In the short term, the industry needs assurances that highly skilled EU citizens already in the UK can continue to work and study in the UK.