EU proposals expected to ensure medicines flow to NI

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The European Union will make proposals to ensure that medicines can continue to flow freely from the UK to Northern Ireland.

The Vice President of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič, is expected to announce a new draft law today.

The British Brexit Minister Lord Frost should be aware of the development and should also give an opinion.

The problems related to pharmaceuticals arise from the drafting of the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Brexit agreement, which means that Northern Ireland remains under EU pharmaceutical regulations.

With Northern Ireland getting most of its medicines from suppliers in the UK, there were concerns that their carriage could be hindered after a grace period in January.

However, the anticipated announcement by the EU would include a proposal to pass legislation that would allow the drug trade to continue between the UK and Northern Ireland.

A Brussels source said: “We believe the proposals will solve all of the problems that have been raised regarding drugs.”

Any new legislation would have to be ratified by both the European Council and the European Parliament.

It is expected that Mr Šefčovič and Mr Frost will speak by phone before the announcement.

It is understood that Mr Frost requested a meeting with the Northern Ireland political parties today, with party leaders awaiting briefing on developments.

No solutions are expected on other issues, but both sides can provide advice on how to tackle outstanding issues such as customs and food as well as plant and animal controls in the new year.

The proposed change to EU law would allow UK pharmaceutical suppliers to maintain their current regulatory framework.

This would mean companies in the UK could continue to act as a hub for the supply of generic medicines to Northern Ireland without having to set up bases in the region.

The proposals would also apply to other small markets using UK medicines, including Ireland, Malta and Cyprus.

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