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U.K. Pharma Companies Seek Brexit Clarity From Johnson and Hunt

U.K. Pharma Companies Seek Brexit Clarity From Johnson and Hunt

  • Government has told companies to reactivate no-deal plans
  • Change of prime minister could massively alter requirements
A pharmacist looks for medication on a pharmacy's shelves in London, U.K.

A pharmacist looks for medication on a pharmacy's shelves in London, U.K.

Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg
A pharmacist looks for medication on a pharmacy's shelves in London, U.K.
Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

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Pharmaceutical companies urged the men vying to replace U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to offer more clarity on their Brexit positions, saying they need to know how to prepare a third time for a no-deal departure.

The Department of Health wrote to medicines suppliers this week and asked them to revive their no-deal plans with a target date of Oct. 31. Those include stockpiling six weeks’ worth of drugs and finding alternative freight routes that avoid the likely choke points at the ports of Dover and Folkestone.

It will be the third date this year for which the industry has had to make preparations. The first time, in March, companies were left in the dark about whether they still needed to activate the plans when Theresa May secured an extension just a week before Britain was due to leave.

This time, the question facing businesses is whether it’s worth going ahead with the work until July 23, when they find out who the next prime minister will be. The favorite, Boris Johnson, has urged a ramping-up of no-deal preparations, likely to mean more money being released. But his opponent, Jeremy Hunt, has signaled he’d be unwilling to take the U.K. out of the EU without an agreement on Oct. 31.

“As we’ve said before, we should be under no illusions that ensuring U.K. medicine supply in a ‘no deal’ Brexit will be easy or smooth,” said Steve Bates, chief executive of the U.K. Bioindustry Association. “Industry also needs to know if the Conservative leadership candidates support this approach to no-deal Brexit planning.”

The Department of Health said it had nothing to add to what it had told suppliers in its letter on Wednesday.