Plea for NI ‘on humanitarian grounds’: free medicines from red tape of the Protocol

Sir Reg Empey has made a plea for restrictions around medicine to be ditched from the NI Protocol “on humanitarian grounds”.

Friday, 24th September 2021, 10:23 am
Updated Friday, 24th September 2021, 10:42 am

The Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey was referring to the thicket of red tape which now surrounds the import of goods into Northern Ireland.

This is because the Province is still treated as if it were part of the EU’s single market.

The phrase single market means that, basically, the exact same standards and regulations apply to goods entering Northern Ireland as those entering Poland, Portugal, Greece or Germany, or the Republic of Ireland.

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In other words, goods entering NI from Great Britain are checked to see if they measure up to EU standards.

Whilst a grace period has been instituted for medicines, there is confusion over exactly when this will end, with the BBC reporting that it is “indefinite” but the Press Association citing an end date of January 2022.

But in any case, there have already been reports that some companies are planning to halt medicine distribution to NI from GB.

Lord Empey said this morning: “The people of Northern Ireland have had lots of words from both the UK Government and the EU on how they are working to find ‘solutions’ to the problems created by the Protocol.

“What we now need are actions, and the issue of medicine supply to Northern Ireland will be a litmus test of the sincerity of both the UK Government and the EU.

“While the quest for a replacement of the Protocol must continue, I appeal, on humanitarian grounds, that a decision is made now to remove medicines from its scope before more unnecessary damage is inflicted.

“The Ulster Unionist Party has been highlighting, in particular, the issue of medicines.

“We have been advised that literally thousands of medicines will be ‘discontinued’ and not supplied to Northern Ireland from companies in GB.

“This is because medicines currently fall under EU rules in Northern Ireland and any products coming from our usual suppliers will, after the end of this year, have to go through a rigorous certification process.

“The cost involved in this for companies supplying the small NI market would be prohibitive and as a result companies are notifying the authorities that they will discontinue supply. The number is growing fast.

“It is astonishing that as part of the developed western world the people of Northern Ireland are being told that medicines that they have traditionally relied on may no longer be available after the end of 2021!”

He dubbed the whole issue “outrageous”.

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