What next on Brexit in Biotech?

So the 31 October deadline came and went and a new three-month extension has been agreed between the UK and EU. That means that 31 January 2020 is now the latest cliff-hanger in the extended mini-series of no-deal Brexit deadlines.

The message from government as it heads into the pre-election period is that planning for no-deal should be maintained across industry, given the new 31 January exit deadline. In practical terms that means asking businesses to continue their no deal preparations – maintaining stockpiles, assessing contingency freight arrangements and planning for potential new customs and border arrangements.

The Department of Health and Social Care’s updated 'multi-layered plan' means that government-wide freight and express freight services will remain open for pre-registration. It also means that civil servants will continue to respond to requests for advice and support via their dedicated betraderready@dhsc.gov.uk contact point for our sector.

The General Election could, of course bring a significant plot twist to Brexit, with a range of policies on offer ranging from full revocation of Article 50, all the way through to a no-deal exit.

If a Conservative-led Government is returned, we can expect to see the Withdrawal Agreement Bill reintroduced rapidly and assuming that is ratified, the UK would enter the transition period specified in the Withdrawal Agreement and the 31 January deadline would be superseded. But the timeline for that transition period hasn’t been changed, so that would bring into view a potential new no-deal exit deadline of 31 December 2020, assuming no further extension and no Trade Agreement by that point. If it turns out that more than 12 months is needed to develop a future economic partnership, that would need to be agreed by both the UK and EU before 1 July 2020.

If a Labour-led Government is elected, we might expect to see moves for a further extension beyond 31 January to allow for a further renegotiation with the EU, notwithstanding the stated EU position that the current withdrawal agreement will not be re-opened (again).

While we wait to see what happens, at BIA we are beginning to look ahead to the potential scenarios that could play out. We’ve now completed the recent high-intensity phase of our Brexit readiness programme and we’d like to say thank you to everyone who took part in our events and webinars – your questions and input were incredibly valuable and we’ve had some great feedback too, which we really appreciate. All of our resources continue to be available. That includes links on our microsite to relevant government advice on issues including regulation, customs, employment and R&D. And for those of you who missed them first time around, all our no-deal webinars are available on our BIA YouTube channel.

Looking ahead, we’ve got a date in the diary for our next Brexit webinar on the 22 November, so please sign up for that. We’re also planning a webinar a few days after the general election to look at what the result could mean for our sector. Until then, we’ll be keeping an eye out for any significant new plot twists on Brexit.