NI Brexit: Supply of medicines to NI fears as end of grace period looms - Health Minister Robin Swann admits he is concerned

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann has voiced concern about the supply of medicines to the region as a result of a looming Brexit regulatory barrier to securing stock from the rest of the UK.

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 11:33 am

Under the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, Northern Ireland and Great Britain are to operate under different regulatory rules for medicines and medical devices.

A one-year grace period delaying the practical consequences of this is due to expire at the end of the year.

Northern Ireland currently secures 98% of its supplies from Great Britain.

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A lorry arrives at Larne Port.

Mr Swann told the Assembly’s Health Committee that the EU’s ill-fated attempt to suspend a part of the Northern Ireland Protocol in January amid a dispute over vaccine supplies had impacted efforts to prepare for the end of the grace period.

“It is something that concerns me and that’s why we have been engaged quite significantly in regards to this,” he said.

“The derogation period for medicines was one of the longest that was actually agreed at the start which gave us to the end of this year actually to get things sorted out and in a better place.

“Everyone thought that work was progressing well until the EU triggered Article 16 over vaccines – that unnerved people, that unsettled people and that has, I suppose, increased the level of concern that we’re seeing, especially from the smaller and the more intricate suppliers of medicines and medical devices.”

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