02.11.2018 | Brussels Background Mirror, Mirror on the wall- where will Brexit lead us all?

It kind of feels like reading the same news for the past few months when it comes to Brexit – “We’re almost there”! But are they really and will the divorce agreement be concluded any time soon? A few options for the future are on the table and they are manifold: from the horrific “cliff edge” scenario that has been depicted for so many times to the possibility that all of this might bring the rest of the EU 27 closer together.

The clock is ticking – on both sides of the Channel. If the European Union and the United Kingdom cannot find an agreement, which should be found rather sooner than later, the UK will become a third country by default on the 30th of March. A lot of open questions remain if there will be no withdrawal agreement. Media coverage about the consequences for citizen rights, trade in general and the customs union is pretty thorough. But what about the public health in both the UK and the EU?

Severe problems for public health are looming: If the citizens’ rights are not agreed upon the UK will eventually face a deep cut to their workforce as the NHS benefits a lot from EU citizens. This will not only affect the holy cow of the Brexiteers, the NHS, but also the workforce qualified to work for the pharmaceutical sector.  Adding up to this, shortages of medicinal products are likely as well. Back in August, the UK government issued the recommendation to stockpile a six-week’ worth of drug supply in case of the dreaded “no-deal scenario”.

Other changes have already manifested themselves. With the UK leaving the EU, the agencies based there also had to leave. After an interesting and controversial process, the new place of residency for the European Medicines Agency was found: Amsterdam. Although this city seemed a favourite among the approximately 900 employees in polls before the decision was even made, more people left the agency than anticipated. This has already now caused a massive decrease in EMA activities. In the Brexit Preparedness Plan the agency published initially in late 2017 meanwhile entered into its third phase: a drastic scale-back of activities. Other questions that remain unsolved for now are a possible continued membership of the UK in the EMA, the clinical trial regulation and its implementation or the future of the unitary patent.

All this, shows how important the role of the European Union in our everyday lives is. Standards, no European citizen has ever questioned become apparent problems now that one of the 28 Member States will most likely leave the Union. This should never become a precedent case. The tough negotiations, the uncertainty it causes for citizens as well as for companies shows that the case of Art. 50 TFEU should not be applied again anytime soon. Although the UK leaving the EU is a sad event which already caused more havoc than anyone could have ever imagined, it can and should be a signal to the rest of the 27 Member States: Europe is certainly not perfect, but its benefits overrule its flaws and only as a strong entity will we be able to compete globally and protect our health in Europe.