NHS European Office

Brexit: latest updates

UK and EU flag

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

UK and EU negotiators met again this week (29 June - 2 July) for a "restricted" round of discussions on the future relationship, with both sides agreeing that "serious divergences remain". The major sticking points continue to be level playing field arrangements for open and fair competition; governance arrangements for the future relationship; and EU access to UK fishing waters.

The next round of negotiations will take place w/c 20 July. Read the press statements from the EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier and the UK's David Frost

Read the draft texts from the UK and the EU to find out more on how each envisages their future relationship.

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

How post-Brexit negotiations could affect our ability to manage another coronavirus

The Brexit Health Alliance has published a new briefing and infographic highlighting how the outcome of the UK-EU negotiations could affect the UK’s ability to manage another pandemic. 

To protect public health and wellbeing across the UK and the EU, the Brexit Health Alliance is campaigning to ensure that the UK can continue to:

  • Participate in key EU data-sharing platforms and alert systems to exchange information and early warnings about health threats.
  • Import and export the medicines and medical devices that we need, so that they reach patients as quickly as possible. This relies on the minimum of delay caused by tariffs and regulatory barriers.
  • Participate fully in research and testing of new treatments, including clinical trials, so that patients can benefit as soon as these become available.
  • Recruit and retain the researchers and clinicians we need to staff our services. 

Download your copy of the briefing and infographic.

Safeguarding patient access to medicines and medical technologies - new briefing from BHA

The Brexit Health Alliance (BHA) published a briefing on negotiating a new relationship with the EU that safeguards patient access to medicines and medical technologies. In the briefing, the BHA calls for the negotiations between the UK and the EU to provide patients and industry with as much clarity as possible and to prioritise:

  • guaranteeing patients uninterrupted supply of their current treatments and fast access to new medicines and medical devices
  • safeguarding high regulatory standards and public health protections for medicines and medical devices used to treat patients
  • and promoting the UK’s position as a global leader in life sciences innovation and international influence. 

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.



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