Tuesday 20 August 2019

Brexit contingency plans: public warned not to stock up on medicines as it will 'disrupt the supply of drugs'

Advice: Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Advice: Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Laura Larkin and Paul Melia

PEOPLE have been warned not to stock up on their medicines in order to avoid shortages in the case of a no deal Brexit.

According to the Health Minister the government is not anticipating an "immediate impact" on medicines in the event the UK crash out in March.

Additional stocks are already in place and planning is underway with Revenue to allow the fast-tracking of essential drugs into Ireland post-Brexit, according to the Government.

An official statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs, who are taking the lead on Brexit, has warned: "It is important to note that there is no need for hospitals, pharmacists or patients to order extra quantities of medicines, as doing so could disrupt existing stock levels and hamper the supply of medicines for other patients."

'People's Vote' supporters dance and listen to speeches during a demonstration in Parliament Square on January 15, 2019 in London, England.
(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
'People's Vote' supporters dance and listen to speeches during a demonstration in Parliament Square on January 15, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
British MPs pack the chamber at the conclusion of the debate ahead of a vote on the UK Prime Minister's Brexit deal in the House of Commons, London Photo credit: House of Commons/PA Wire
Britain's opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn attends the debate in Parliament ahead of the vote on British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at the conclusion of the debate ahead of a vote on her Brexit deal in the House of Commons Photo credit: House of Commons/PA Wire
Caricatures of Conservative politicians are driven past the Houses of Parliament on January 15, 2019 in London (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament on January 15, 2019 in London, England (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
A placard with Chairman of the European Research Group Jacob Rees-Mogg's face (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Anti-Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Protesters demonstrate on the day that MP's vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal, in Parliament Square (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Pro-Brexit protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Theresa May is congratulated by a Conservative MP at the conclusion of the debate ahead of a vote on her Brexit deal Photo credit: House of Commons/PA Wire
Britain's Attorney General Geoffrey Cox addresses Parliament ahead of the vote on May's Brexit deal UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn listens at the conclusion of the debate ahead of a vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit deal in the House of Commons Photo credit: House of Commons/PA Wire
British Prime Minister Theresa May is seen in Parliament ahead of the vote on May's Brexit deal, in London UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford speaks at the conclusion of the debate ahead of a vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit deal Photo credit: House of Commons/PA Wire
Sir Edward Leigh MP asks a question about his amendment at the conclusion of the debate ahead of a vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit deal in the House of Commons Photo credit: House of Commons/PA Wire
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow speaks at the conclusion of the debate ahead of a vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit deal Photo credit: House of Commons/PA Wire
John Baron MP begs to move his amendment at the conclusion of the debate ahead of a vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit deal Photo credit: House of Commons/PA Wire

Taxation, the single electricity market and healthcare are all areas that will be addressed in a so-called omnibus bill.

Cabinet agreed a bill which comprises of 17 parts covering a broad selection of sectors today. It will be brought to the Houses in March if a no-deal Brexit looms at that point.

The Tanáiste Simon Coveney is meeting with Opposition leaders this afternoon to brief them on the latest contingency plans and the legislation needed.

Special procedures may be used to get the bill through on time before the March 29 deadline.

There will be 14 legal acts at EU level that will need to be adopted by the EU Commission if there is a cliff edge Brexit.

Mr Coveney and Health Minister Simon Harris said work is being done to maintain the Common Travel Area with the UK.

New bilateral arrangements with the UK to ensure the maintenance of the Common Travel Area have been agreed and are "ready to go".

The CTA allows free movement of citizens between the two countries and provides for social protection and the ability of students to study in both Ireland and the UK at the minute.

A bilateral agreement between UK and the EU is needed as Brexit will disrupt the way the it operates with new arrangements needed to ensure it continues as before when the UK leaves the European Union.

Agreements have been reached on how to do this including including a Memorandum of Association on education and an international treaty on social protection, and a separate agreement on health care.

These will maintain the CTA "deal or no deal" the Tanáiste Simon Coveney said.

He said the CTA provides for more than free movement and operates as almost a mutual recognition of citizenship in many ways.

Mr Coveney said a 'mega-bill' providing for the contingency legislation will require the co-operation of all Opposition parties, and said "politics will be tested here".

He also reiterated that he does not believe a no-deal is a likely outcome.

Mr Coveney said he would be surprised if the Opposition did not work with the Government on getting the contingency legislation through and said the Government will be "open and fair" with them.

Areas such as fisheries need to be teased out further in order for no deal preparation.

He declined to be drawn on plans to avoid a hard border in the event of no deal and said commentary by opponents to the backstop came from people who had no solution as to how to avoid one in the absence of a backstop.

He said problems cannot be wished away and that British Prime Minister Theresa May has issued a strong defence of the backstop on that basis.

Meanwhile, in relation to transport preparedness Minister Ross could not confirm if there are plans to hold a test similar to what was done near Dover to assess the potential tailbacks in the event of a no deal Brexit. However, he said he would be surprised if the inter-departmental working group on Brexit had not considered it.

He also said he was "absolutely confident" normal services will continue between Ireland and the UK after March 29.

But work is ongoing to identify products which may be affected by disruption to Ireland's transport links.

Meanwhile, shipments of goods between the UK landbridge and Europe are likely be delayed under a hard Brexit.

The Government says while plans are being developed to provide additional customs and agriculture checks at Dublin and Rosslare ports, “the scale of the checks required will likely result in delays for goods moving through the ports.”

In an update published this evening, the Government says it discussed connectivity with the UK and on Ireland's reliance on the UK landbridge at this morning's cabinet meeting.

It says some €21bn of trade with the EU crosses from Irish ports to the UK and then into EU ports, and vice versa.

“This trade is largely in time-sensitive products such as agri-food, where the shorter journey times and high frequency of sailings allow a quicker and more viable route to market than direct sailings to the continental ports,” it says.

It adds that trade is “currently frictionless” as it is all within the single market. But with the UK potentially leaving the EU on March 29, "substantial additional customs, agriculture health controls will be required at ports and airports that involve trade with the UK."

The main pinch points are expected to arise in Dublin, Rosslare and Dover-Calais.

Work is underway to provide the physical infrastructure needed to complete these checks, but it adds that delays are likely.

“There is a focus on preventing congestion through the provision of appropriate measures,” it adds.

Following consultation with shipping companies, Transport Minister Shane Ross said he believed there is sufficient capacity available on direct routes to the EU from the end of March, and that additional demand can be provided at short notice.

“The minister will however keep this under review and report back to Government with a further assessment before end February,” the note adds.

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