Sunday 26 May 2019

Government ramping up preparations to ensure enough medicine in event of no deal Brexit

There are 340 different plans on offer from VHI, Laya and Irish Life Health. Stock Image
There are 340 different plans on offer from VHI, Laya and Irish Life Health. Stock Image
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

IRELAND is ramping up preparations to ensure we have enough medicines in the event of a no deal Brexit.

The Cabinet met today and discussed no deal plans for medicines, transport and legislation that will be needed, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said.

Wholesalers already stockpile medicines the Taoiseach said but the Department of Health is working with the industry to ensure that there is enough of a supply if Britain crash out in March.

A  large number of medicines used here are manufactured here but what does come from the UK in significant numbers are generic medicines, meaning people could be facing larger bills for their prescriptions in a no deal scenario.

“We’re going to need to make sure that they are available too but that work is very much ongoing,” he said.

Food shortages are not a concern as Ireland is a food exporting company Mr Varadkar said.

In the “unlikely event” of a no deal and trade disruption the kinds of foods that would be harder to get would be pre-packaged foods, such as “those  of food tray things you get in Marks and Spencers, those type of products”, according to the Fine Gael leader.

“Nobody is going to go hungry,” he said.

Some 45 pieces of legislation will be needed to prepare for a no deal but as much of this relates to regulations and statutory instruments it can be consolidated into around four pieces of legislation, the Taoiseach said today.

It is planned to publish that legislation when it is available but it will not come before the Oireachtas until March.

Asked about comments made by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed about the need to seek special aid from the EU to bolster the fishing and agriculture industry Mr Varadkar said any aid package sanction by the EU would need to be shared among countries hit by the departure, not just Ireland.

He said it was not expected that Ireland would cease being a net contributor to the EU in the event of a no deal Brexit but conceded Ireland may need to receive permission to provide State-aid for industries such as agriculture and fisheries.

Mr Varadkar said that he hopes any preparation for a no deal is “futile”.

“The threat of no deal is only coming from the UK, it’s not a threat that Ireland is making, it’s not a threat that the EU is making. The UK can take the threat of a no deal of the UK at any time either by ratifying the withdrawal agreement...or alternatively by seeking an extension of Article 50,” he said.

He also appeared to dismiss the idea of delaying the meaningful vote further, following a call from former Brexit minister David Davis who has implored Theresa May to delay the vote again, as he believes a new deal can be struck at the eleventh hour.

The Taoiseach revealed he spoke for 40 minutes with German Chancellor Angela Merkel today about how the UK could be assisted in getting the withdrawal deal through parliament.

While the EU is willing to offer assurances Mr Varadkar appeared to shift the responsibility for coming up with the clarifications she needs to get the deal through onto Mrs May.

“Once again what we both really agreed is that once again this is a problem created in London...and we’re really looking to them for a solution,” he said.

“Those who create a problem must be the ones who have a responsibility to come up with a solution. We need to hear from them.”

Officials in the UK and Ireland will engage this week and plans for direct communication between Mrs May and Mr Varadkar over the coming weeks.

Asked if it remained his position that the withdrawal agreement could not be reopened Mr Varadkar said:

“It is but my position all along the way has been reasonable,” he said, noting that Europe made concessions on a UK-wide backstop and a review mechanism for the backstop.

"All along the way we’ve been doing our best to assist the UK in solving the problems that it has been creating for the rest of us and we will continue to do that but there is a limitation.

“That legal guarantee that we won’t see an emergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland really is the only red line that we’ve had and it’s not one that can change,” he said.

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