Glaxo, Astra Lead U.K. Drugmakers to Seek Continued EU Access

  • Brexit panel urges government to preserve EU hiring, trade
  • Pharma companies call on U.K. to be ‘flexible’ in talks

An advisory group for U.K. pharmaceutical companies, led by the chief executive officers of GlaxoSmithKline Plc and AstraZeneca Plc, is urging the government to help the industry preserve access to the European Union’s market and researchers after Brexit.

The group, composed of pharmaceutical and biotechnology company representatives, briefed U.K. ministers last week on key issues ahead of the formal start of EU exit talks, according to a statement Wednesday from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. It highlighted the importance of predictable funding for scientific research, the right to trade and move capital across borders, regulatory cooperation and the ability to tap international talent.

The nation’s biggest drugmakers have benefited from a plunge in the U.K. currency that followed the June 23 referendum because they do much of their business overseas, lifting profits when converted into pounds. But they worry that Brexit could raise hurdles to doing business in the EU and complicate hiring non-U.K. workers. Leaders of the campaign to leave the EU have called for restrictions on EU immigration, which officials of the bloc have said could be incompatible with continued market access.

The U.K. EU Life Sciences Steering Group, headed by Glaxo CEO Andrew Witty and Astra’s Pascal Soriot, urged the government to be “flexible” in talks with the EU. The next meeting of the steering group, representing a 60 billion-pound ($79 billion) U.K. life-sciences industry, and government will take place in November.

Taxes, Profits

The group also called on the government to maintain a tax system that supports innovation. The U.K. promotes domestic research and development by offering a lower corporation tax on profits generated from British-owned intellectual property. Life-sciences firms in the U.K. invest more than any other sector in research and export 30 billion pounds of goods a year, according to the industry association.

The group called for more research cooperation with the U.K.’s publicly funded National Health Service, saying it needs to be made into “an engine of innovation.”

Since the referendum, Glaxo shares have jumped 12 percent while the benchmark FTSE 100 index has risen 5.2 percent. Astra has surged 25 percent as takeover speculation provided an additional boost.

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