HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 5 October 2021
Sky News, Editorial Team, 04 October 2021
Sky News reports that the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) says that the combination of the fuel delivery squeeze and delivery driver shortage is to blame for the delays in the delivery of medicines in parts of the country.
The AIMp is calling on the government to ensure a robust contingency plan to prevent any deterioration in the supply chain disruption.
There are currently no shortages of medicines as a result of the fuel and driver issues as AIMp chief executive Leyla Hannbeck said: “Pharmacists and their teams have been working very hard to ensure patients have access to their medicines during the current crisis”.
BBC News, Chris Morris, 05 October 2021
BBC News reports that Lord Frost, during a speech at the Conservative Party Conference, has threatened to suspend parts of the deal with the EU if the bloc does not agree changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
He said that the Protocol was not working, and without the approval of the UK’s new proposals, the UK would have to trigger Article 16, suspending part of the deal.
Lord Frost said the government “knew [it was] taking a risk” when it agreed to the Protocol in the Autumn of 2019, claiming his team were “worried right from the start that the Protocol would not take the strain if not handled sensitively”.
In response to the House of Lord’s Northern Ireland sub-Committee’s report into the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Government has agreed with the Committee’s conclusion that the new administrative requirements insisted on by the EU for moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland have had the biggest impact on business. It writes that its Command Paper proposes a new framework to remove undue barriers on internal UK trade whilst ensuring rigorous controls on goods sent into the EU.
The Government notes that on the point raised with regards to the flexibilities explored by the EU, the proposals only partially dealt with some limited, specific issues and didn’t engage with the underlying problems caused by the customs and agrifood requirements. The Government writes that this is the case for proposals such as those on medicines, which would not resolve the issues faced for citizens in Northern Ireland accessing vital medicines.
It says that while there has been a significant amount of constructive technical engagement on medicines, the EU’s proposal on medicines would be complex to operate, onerous, and would not deal with the issues that stakeholders have raised, including the current requirement for new cancer drugs to be licensed by the European Medicines Agency in Northern Ireland.
It therefore considers that more significant changes are required, as set out in the Command Paper. This includes taking medicines out of the scope of the Protocol altogether, to give patients in Northern Ireland a long-term sustainable solution that removes supply risks and helps ensure equity of access for new and innovative treatments.
Sky News, Editorial Team, 04 October 2021
A pharmacy industry body has warned of delivery delays for medicines in some parts of the country but says it is managing the supply situation to ensure no disruption to patients and customers.
The Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) said a combination of the fuel delivery squeeze and wider delivery driver shortage were to blame for the delays.
The organisation, which represents the interests of more than 3,000 pharmacies, called on the government to ensure a robust contingency plan was in place to prevent any deterioration in the supply chain disruption.
It stressed there was no shortage of products because pharmacists were managing supplies to maintain continuity across the network.
AIMp chief executive Leyla Hannbeck said: “Pharmacists and their teams have been working very hard to ensure patients have access to their medicines during the current crisis.
“While the situation with fuel crisis has started to improve, we are aware that some geographical areas continue to be affected by delays to deliveries of medicines.
“The impact on workload and stress levels for everyone across the supply chain, including in pharmacies, remains considerable.
“We are watching the situation with delivery drivers and fuel crisis very closely and are liaising with the government and asking the government to ensure robust contingency plans and strategy are in place to ensure medicines supply is not affected and that we can continue caring for our patients.”
The body released its statement as ministers admitted the economy faced a tough winter ahead with the core Christmas season expected to be hit by the effects of global supply chain woes including the shortage of workers in key areas, especially HGV drivers.
The problem, which is Europe-wide and mainly a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, prompted a government climbdown last month when it gave in to post-Brexit demands for EU drivers to be allowed to work in the UK.
However, the haulage industry and businesses argued its temporary visa scheme fell short of what was needed.
The fuel delivery crisis – which prompted panic-buying in many areas – now appears to be confined to parts of southern and eastern England.
The army, on Monday, began assisting efforts to keep forecourts stocked and motorists moving.
BBC News, Chris Morris, 05 October 2021
The UK’s Brexit minister has threatened to suspend parts of the deal with the EU if the bloc does not agree changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Lord Frost said the protocol – put in place to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland – was “not working and needs to change”.
He said he worried the UK’s proposals would not be agreed by the EU.
Lord Frost said triggering Article 16, which would suspend part of the deal, may end up as “the only way” forward.
The Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed by both sides as a way to protect the Good Friday Agreement by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.
But Unionists have said the protocol damages trade with other parts of the UK by creating a border in the Irish Sea.
Article 16 can be triggered by either the UK or EU to suspend elements of the Brexit deal on the condition that the protocol is causing “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade”.
But critics say it would only be a temporary fix and not solve the long-term issues which the protocol has raised.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the government believed “the conditions have been met” to trigger Article 16.
But while he said the government was willing to trigger it, they preferred the option of negotiating a “sustainable” agreement with the EU.
“The EU has got to come to the table in good faith,” he added. “They have got to work with us to get a solution that delivers.”
An EU spokeswoman said they would not comment on Lord Frost’s remarks, “however lyrical or aggressive they may be”.
But they said the bloc was “working intensively to find practical solutions to some of the difficulties that people in Northern Ireland are experiencing”.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, Lord Frost said the government “knew [it was] taking a risk” when it agreed to the protocol in the autumn of 2019, claiming his team were “worried right from the start that the protocol would not take the strain if not handled sensitively”.
But he said the arrangements were “going to come apart even more quickly than we feared”, and support for the protocol had collapsed across Northern Ireland.
“We can still solve these problems,” said Lord Frost, pointing to proposals he sent to the EU in July.
“We still await a formal response from the EU… but from what I hear, I worry that we will not get a response that enables the significant change we need,” he added.
“So I urge the EU to be ambitious. There is no use tinkering around the edges. We need significant change.”
Later, the minister told a fringe event at the conference that he expected to get a response to the UK’s proposals within the next two weeks, adding: “We need a short, intensive and good faith talks process to happen quite soon. We need to show we’ve tried everything.”
And at another event, he referred to the negotiations, which, he indicated, could last “three weeks or so”.
The EU has sent its own proposals to the UK on changes the protocol, but Lord Frost did not mention them in his speech.
Instead he said if the two sides did not come up with a solution, “using the Article 16 safeguard mechanism to address the impact the protocol is having in Northern Ireland…may in the end be the only way to protect our country, our people, our trade and our territorial integrity, the peace process and the benefits to this great UK”.
The threat to trigger Article 16 is not new. Lord Frost has made it a number of times.
But a decision is fast approaching.
It would not spell the end of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Article 16 only suspends limited aspects of the agreement, even though the UK government is looking for a much wider-ranging renegotiation of the deal it signed up to less than two years ago.
As it stands, the future of Northern Ireland looks set to bedevil relations between the UK and the EU for some time.
And Lord Frost’s negotiating style is certainly brusque.
A few years ago, in another job, he was singing the praises of the single market.
Now, in this speech, the EU is “heavy-handed” and British membership was a “long bad dream”.
It’s a challenging basis from which to launch the close partnership with its neighbours that the government says it wants.
The leader of the DUP, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, told an event at the Conservative conference he was “confident” the government was moving in the right direction and that action would be taken on the protocol.
But the MP said he had made it clear “the clock was ticking” and the government must “arrest the harm” the protocol is doing to Northern Ireland and the economy.
Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland secretary, Louise Haigh, said: “Lord Frost negotiated every single word of the deal he now discredits at every opportunity
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