With the Brexit landscape constantly changing, this section pulls together the latest updates on Brexit and its potential impact on health and care.
The UK-EU negotiations
The future relationship: latest round of UK-EU talks
The UK Government has now published (19 May 2020) a series of draft agreements on how it envisages the future relationship with the European Union.
The draft texts include a comprehensive free trade agreement, a framework on fisheries, and agreements covering air transport, civil aviation, energy, law enforcement and judicial cooperation, nuclear energy and social security cooperation.
This follows the third round of negotiations on the future relationship which took place virtually on 11-15 May and which both sides agreed had yielded limited progress, with the main sticking points continuing to be level playing field arrangements for open and fair competition; governance arrangements for the future relationship; disagreements over data protection standards; and EU access to UK fishing waters.
A further round of talks is scheduled for w/c 1 June, with a high-level meeting scheduled later in June to take stock of the progress achieved to date and to assess the actions taken by the UK in the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.
The Withdrawal Agreement: latest round of UK-EU talks
The Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol
The first Specialised Committee meeting on the implementation and application of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland took place virtually on 30 April, with discussions being described as constructive by both the UK and EU parties. The EU Commission underlined the importance of the UK setting out its plans and providing a detailed timetable with regard to all implementation measures prescribed by the Protocol, which will apply from 1 January 2021.
The EU-UK Joint Committee
The first meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee took place on 30 March. The Joint Committee has the responsibility to oversee and monitor the application of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement.
Of interest to the health sector is that agreement was reached on the urgent need for the UK to set out its plans on a detailed implementation plan for the Northern Ireland protocol. Interpretation of this protocol in relation to medicines and medical devices will have implications across regulation, approval, packaging, commercialisation, supply and monitoring of medicines and devices. Life sciences companies have advised that any adjustments to regulatory systems and supply chains can take more than a year to implement. Further, the EU welcomed the UK’s commitment to protecting the residency rights of EU citizens in the UK, committing to supporting Member States in mutually implementing these rights across the continent. The next meeting is due to take place in June.
Read the European Commission's read-out of the meeting.
Draft text of agreement for future relationship
The European Commission has published its draft legal text of the agreement for the future relationship between the UK and the EU.
Government publishes details of new immigration policy
The Government has published details of its long-awaited new points-based immigration system, which it hopes to operate from January 2021. The new system will end free movement from the EU and will introduce a new system of points for specific skills, qualifications, salary thresholds and shortage professions.
Responding to the publication, Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers, said that while "today's announcement is positive for the NHS...it is of great concern that it provides no obvious solution for social care".
Prioritising health in the future relationship with the EU
A new briefing from the Brexit Health Alliance raises concerns over the safety and health of patients and citizens being overlooked during the negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship. The briefing highlights that the UK has until the end of 2020 to work out its future relationship with the EU and it is therefore important to define the key elements of the future relationship as early as possible, not only to end the current uncertainty, but also to make sure the UK remains an attractive place to work and live and that we are able to take advantage of global opportunities.
UK-EU negotiating mandates
Both the UK and the EU have published their mandates for the negotiations on their future relationship. We've published our take on what the mandates mean for the health of EU and UK citizens.
Throughout 2020, the negotiations will be divided into two major strands: the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and the future relationship.
- Implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, which entered into force on 1 February, dictates the UK’s Brexit financial settlement; the rights of citizens in the UK and EU that must be protected; and the arrangements the UK needs to put in place to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.
- Negotiations to define our future relationship will cover areas such as trade and supplies of medicines and medical devices, international collaboration on health security, how UK citizens access healthcare, and international research collaboration.
EU exit: what will change on 1 February
From 1 February the UK will enter an implementation period that will last throughout 2020, while the next stage of negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship takes place. Until the end of the year, the UK will continue to follow most EU law in the same way as it did before. Dr Layla McCay, Director of International Relations at the NHS Confederation, outlines the impact on health, if any, over the coming year.
The UK's future immigration system
The Migration Advisory Committee has published its report on the UK's future immigration system. The Committee was asked to consider how a points-based immigration system could be introduced in the UK to strengthen the UK labour market, and to review the salary thresholds for the future system. Read the response to report from Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation.
Brexit negotiating teams reach agreement
The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker has written to the European Council to confirm that the EU and UK have reached a "fair and balanced agreement" in the Brexit negotiations. The "new" version of the Withdrawal Agreement includes a revised Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland, and a revised Political Declaration on the framework of the future EU-UK relationship. The agreement will now have to be ratified by both the UK and the EU parliaments. Read the response from the NHS Confederation.