News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 18 November 2021

Media Coverage

EU backs down on threats to retaliate if Article 16 triggered
The Telegraph, Joe Barnes, 17 November

The Telegraph reports that the EU has rowed back from threats of retaliation over Article 16, as the UK and EU near their first deal to break the deadlock in talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

In a private briefing with senior EU diplomats, officials said that they were closing in on an agreement to protect medicine supplies to the province. The Brexit Minister, Lord Frost has signalled a new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland could be agreed before Christmas. “I would like to progress this as fast as we possibly can,” he told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster. “I’m glad there’s ambition on the EU side. I think it can be done.”

Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission has resisted calls from hardline member states to draw up a list of potential retaliatory measures that could be triggered if the UK opted to use Article 16. Instead, he has insisted the bloc should focus on securing a deal, using medicines as an acid test to see whether a wider agreement could be reached.

To unlock the talks, sources have suggested the EU could drop its opposition to allowing new medicines approved by the UK’s regulator to be sold in the region. In return, the EU could ask for specific labelling on drugs, including for example, cancer medicines or Covid Antivirals, to show they are only for consumption in Northern Ireland and not to be sold inside the EU’s single market.

Lloydsdirect’s 24-hour Royal Mail delivery service now available across England
Chemist + Druggist, Emily Stearn, 16 November 2021

The Chemist + Druggist reports that following a successful trial, patients using the Lloydsdirect app in England can receive their medicines in as little as 24 hours. Under the service, Royal Mail can deliver standard medicines in 48 hours, while refrigerated and controlled medicines can be posted to patients in just 24 hours.

In March, Lloydspharmacy partnered with the Royal Mail to pilot the service for three months, making it available in London and some parts of South East England. The pilot means that prescriptions fulfilled the night before can be handed over to Royal Mail in the early hours of the morning and be delivered to the customer later that same day.

When the pilot launched, Lloydsdirect and Royal Mail said it paved “the way for a same-day delivery service covering morning orders for urgent medication”.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

Committee seeks assurance from Lord Frost on medicine supplies to Northern Ireland
The House of Lords Sub-Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/ Northern Ireland, 18 November

The House of Lords Sub-Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/ Northern Ireland has written to the Brexit Minister, Lord Frost, to raise concerns about the potential impact on the supply of medicines to Northern Ireland if the standstill period ends without agreement on a permanent solution. It also asks about the cost and operational impact of the Protocol on the pharmaceutical industry. Martin Sawer, HDA Executive Director, was part of the evidence session held to inform the letter.


Full Coverage

EU backs down on threats to retaliate if Article 16 triggered
The Telegraph, Joe Barnes, 17 November

Brussels has rowed back from threats of retaliating against Britain over Article 16, as the UK and EU near their first deal to break the deadlock in talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

European Commission officials signalled a possible compromise and, in a private briefing with senior EU diplomats, said they were closing in on an agreement to protect medicine supplies to the province.

Ahead of face-to-face talks between Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, and Maros Sefcovic, his European counterpart, in Brussels on Friday, EU governments were told “on medicines, we’re nearly there”, according to a source close to the discussions.

With hopes rising of a breakthrough as soon as Friday, Lord Frost has signalled a new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland could be agreed before Christmas.

“I would like to progress this as fast as we possibly can,” he told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster. “I’m glad there’s ambition on the EU side. I think it can be done.”

Focus on securing a deal, not retaliatory measures

With a breakthrough in the offing, Mr Sefcovic – vice-president of the European Commission – resisted calls from hardline member states to draw up a list of potential retaliatory measures that could be triggered if Britain opted to use Article 16.

He insisted the bloc should focus on securing a deal, using medicines as an acid test to whether a wider agreement for Northern Ireland could be reached, instead of potentially provoking a fresh row.

In private, Mr Sefcovic has called on member states to dial down their threats of a trade war if Britain suspends sections of the protocol by triggering Article 16, citing a new positive dynamic in the talks.

“The message from the Commission was there is a change in tone and that’s positive,” an EU source said, signalling an end to four weeks of deadlock in talks over the protocol. “We need to try to use that momentum.”

Mr Sefcovic is keen to make a breakthrough during this week’s round of negotiations in order to de-escalate the mounting tensions over the post-Brexit future of Northern Ireland, which has severely soured cross-Channel relations.

Lord Frost has urged the EU to “stand back” from the threat of potential sanctions against Britain while the talks are ongoing.

“There are no options on the table,” an EU diplomat said, after the Commission’s briefing. “As long as the cooperative spirit endures, this process should be given the chance to sort out the most pressing issues.”

To unlock the talks, sources have suggested the EU could drop its opposition to allowing new medicines approved by Britain’s regulator to be sold in the region.

Under the current protocol, which has essentially created a trade border in the Irish Sea, medicines sold in Northern Ireland would have to be approved by the European Medicines Agency, the bloc’s regulator – potentially stopping shipments of life-saving drugs approved in Britain.

In return for the concession, Brussels would ask for specific labelling on the drugs, which could include cancer medicines or Covid antivirals, to show they are only for consumption in Northern Ireland and should not be sold inside the bloc’s Single Market.

The EU had already offered to change its laws to allow the continued supply of existing cheaper generic drugs, which have already been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

‘Everyone’s preference’ to resolve dispute without Article 16

The Government argues that the current regime is having an adverse impact on trade flows between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and is calling for the protocol to be completely overhauled.

Lord Frost said there was a “gap” between the UK and EU’s positions, but suggested both sides are making progress.

The Brexit minister said a negotiated solution is favoured by the Government, with Article 16 there as a potential fallback to protect trade flows between the province and Great Britain.

“I think it’s everyone’s preference,” he added. “It’s certainly our preference to try to resolve it without using Article 16, but if we can’t resolve it in the negotiations, Article 16 is a perfectly legitimate option to solve these problems. That’s why it has to be on the table,” he added.

“It’s obviously a matter for the European Union if they were to choose to retaliate against any use of Article 16, which I repeat is perfectly legitimate.

“If we use Article 16, it’s about making trade flow more freely within the United Kingdom. “I don’t see why it would help for the response to that from the European Union to be sanctions, retaliation and making trade more difficult. I don’t understand why that would help the situation here, and I hope everybody can stand back from that.”

Lloydsdirect’s 24-hour Royal Mail delivery service now available across England
Chemist + Druggist, Emily Stearn, 16 November 2021

Following a “successful” trial, patients using the Lloydsdirect app in England can receive their medicines in as little as 24 hours, a Lloydspharmacy spokesperson has told C+D.

Available across “virtually all” Lloydspharmacy branches in England, the service allows patients to order and receive their repeat and acute prescriptions more quickly than they were able to under the previous Lloydsdirect delivery service.
Under the service, Royal Mail can deliver standard medicines in 48 hours, while refrigerated and controlled medicines can be posted to patients in just 24 hours, Lloydspharmacy wrote on its website.

In March, Lloydspharmacy partnered with Royal Mail to pilot the service for three months, making it available to patients in London and some parts of south east England.

Following the trial’s completion, the multiple told C+D in June that it was reviewing the results and deciding next steps.

A spokesperson for Lloydspharmacy told C+D last week (November 12) that the pilot “has been successful” and the service “is now available across virtually all our stores in England”.

In-branch delivery still an option

Patients can still select same-day collection from a Lloydspharmacy branch – a function the multiple added to its Lloydsdirect app last year.

“With this service, customers can order via the Lloydsdirect app, and can select delivery via Royal Mail or collect from a local Lloydspharmacy store,” the Lloydspharmacy spokesperson told C+D.

The pilot means that prescriptions fulfilled the night before can be handed over to Royal Mail in the early hours of the morning and be delivered to the customer later that same day.

When the pilot launched, Lloydsdirect and Royal Mail said it paved “the way for a same-day delivery service covering morning orders for urgent medication”.

When the pilot launched, Lloydspharmacy said it expected those “same-day” deliveries to account initially “for about 0.5% of our daily dispatches, so we are operating within a safe capacity that does not impact our other services”.

C+D has approached Lloydspharmacy for comment on its current dispatch capacity.

Deliveroo partnership to expand “in coming months”

In July 2020, Lloydspharmacy announced it was partnering with Deliveroo to deliver a range of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and healthcare products to patients. Initially available from 16 Lloydspharmacy premises, it was anticipated to later expand to a further 24 branches across the UK.

A Lloydspharmacy spokesperson told C+D last week that this service is now available from 37 branches.

“We’re now looking to expand the rollout to around 100 stores in the coming months”, the spokesperson added.

Superdrug launched a new rapid delivery service last week, which allows the company to complete orders for a range of health and beauty products within just two hours.

Meanwhile, in August Boots made nearly 100 OTC medicines available for delivery via Deliveroo.

Earlier this year, Lloyds Echo rebranded to Lloydsdirect “to reflect how the business has evolved”.

Committee seeks assurance from Lord Frost on medicine supplies to Northern Ireland
The House of Lords Sub-Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/ Northern Ireland, 18

The House of Lords Sub-Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/ Northern Ireland has written to Lord Frost to raise concerns about the potential impact on the supply of medicines to Northern Ireland if the standstill period ends without agreement on a permanent solution. It also asks about the cost and operational impact of the Protocol on the pharmaceutical industry.

Background
In its introductory report published in July, the Sub-Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland drew attention to the concerns of the pharmaceutical industry about the potential impact on the provision of medicines to Northern Ireland under the Protocol, in particular following the end of the 12-month grace period agreed between the UK and the EU in December 2020.
Following the publication of the Government’s Command Paper in July, its unilateral announcement in September of a ‘standstill period’ for the various grace periods (including that on medicines), and the publication in October of the Commission’s ‘non-paper’ on medicines, the Committee took evidence from representatives of the pharmaceutical industry to explore the issues further.
Today the Committee has written to the Minister to reflect the evidence from the pharmaceutical industry representatives, and asking about:

  • the cost and operational impact on medicine supply to Northern Ireland of Brexit and the Protocol
  • the scale and risk of product withdrawal
  • the scope for cross-border provision on the island of Ireland and the risk to the EU Single Market
  • the impact of the extension of the grace period for medicines
  • the EU’s 13 October ‘non-paper’ on medicines
  • the Government’s 21 July Command Paper
  • the need for a mutually agreed solution
  • engagement with industry representatives

Chair’s comments
The Chair of the Committee, Lord Jay of Ewelme, said:
“Medicines is an issue that affects everyone in Northern Ireland, regardless of their political views.
“It is therefore imperative that the UK and the EU work together to come up with a workable and mutually agreeable solution for medicine supply to Northern Ireland as soon as possible, as continued uncertainty is damaging for the pharmaceutical industry, and therefore damaging for the people of Northern Ireland.
“I urge Lord Frost, together with his EU counterparts, to continue positive engagement with the pharmaceutical industry about their concerns and maintain this dialogue in the context of the continuing discussions between the two sides on the future of the Protocol.”

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 18 November 2021

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