France and Germany are making contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit, with Paris looking at residency issues and Berlin examining medical supply chains with the UK.
Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said on Monday that France hopes Britain will reach a deal with the European Union on its exit from the bloc, but that Paris will be ready in the event of a so-called “cliff edge” departure.
Germany is also making preparations, specifically investigating if a post-Brexit EU could see shortages of critical medications.
Macron and Merkel to meet
French President Emmanuel Macron wants a Brexit agreement by the end of the year and is set to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in early September, as a deal with London still seems to be a remote prospect.
At a cabinet meeting in Paris convened to discuss Brexit, the prime minister “tasked ministers to prepare contingency measures that would be necessary… to mitigate the difficulties linked with this unprecedented challenge”.
Measures would include the issue of UK citizens living in France and ensuring smooth border controls, the prime minister’s office said.
The approximately 150,000 British citizens living in France are being actively encouraged by Macron’s government to apply for a ‘carte de séjour’ residency permit to avoid administrative chaos post-Brexit.
The government will present its concrete proposals to parliament in the coming weeks.
EU drugs task force
The EU’s drugs regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), on Wednesday said that it and national regulators had set up a task force to minimise supply disruptions arising for any reason over the next two years.
“The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU is also likely to affect the availability of medicines in the EU,” it said.
The German government has asked drugmakers to examine their supply chains for any vulnerability that could cause shortages of essential drugs should Britain leave the EU without a Brexit deal.
The highly regulated drugs sector is one of the most vulnerable to Britain’s decision to leave the EU because of uncertainty as to how medicine oversight will function in the event of an abrupt exit next March.
More than 2,600 drugs have some stage of manufacture in Britain and 45 million patient packs are supplied from the UK to other European countries each month, while another 37 million flow in the opposite direction, industry figures show.
Germany’s Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) has ordered the country’s main drug industry associations to gather information on the impact of a no-deal Brexit, a spokeswoman for the health ministry said on Wednesday.
German drugmakers including Bayer, Merck KGaA and Boehringer Ingelheim as well as foreign suppliers such as Teva and Roche, have been asked to plan for the “worst-case-scenario of a hard Brexit without transition period”.
Fears in the UK
Amid fears of drug shortages in the UK, some companies including AstraZeneca, France’s Sanofi and Novartis have announced that they plan to increase stockpiles in the event of a worst-case scenario.
For the UK’s 3.7 million diabetes sufferers, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agencyhas warned that all insulin is imported to the UK.
Sanofi, a major supplier to the UK of insulin, has already announced that it is increasing its stocks by four weeks to give it a 14 week supply of medicines.
“The uncertainty in the Brexit negotiations means that Sanofi has been planning for a ‘no deal’ scenario,” said Hugo Fry, managing director of Sanofi’s UK arm.
Despite the steps being taken, the World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo warned last week that the UK risks trade disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit because it is “very unlikely” to have agreed tariffs and quotas with the other WTO members in time.