Medical supplies needed to fight second wave to be hit by no-deal Brexit, think tank warns

Negotiators on both sides  accused of "not putting health first” despite pandemic  

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Wednesday 14 October 2020 22:32
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Brexit briefing: How long until the end of the transition period?

Medical supplies crucial to fight a second wave of coronavirus face being disrupted by a no-deal Brexit, a leading health think tank has warned.  

They could be interrupted without an agreement on a future trading relationship with the EU, the Nuffield Trust said.  

The warning came as the author of a new report said “negotiators on both sides have not been putting health first” in talks, despite the ongoing global pandemic.  

The trust found that imports of medical equipment from the EU hit their highest ever level in March this year.  

Leaving the EU’s single market without a deal would mean maximum disruption at customs, it adds in the report.  

A breakdown in UK-EU relations, in the event of an acrimonious no-deal, could also harm information sharing.  

Post-Brexit immigration plans could also mean far fewer people from the EU coming to the UK to take up roles in social care, posing another “serious problem”.  

Nuffield Trust policy analyst Mark Dayan, who wrote the report, said: “A resurgent second wave of the pandemic is at the forefront of people’s minds but the NHS’s ability to cope with this extreme demand will be impacted by the decisions taken now in negotiating chambers in London and Brussels.

“The effects of leaving the single market, even with a deal, will be felt immediately. Given the demand pressure seen during the first wave on protective equipment and medicines there is a real risk to supply should EU controls on medical exports cover the UK.

“It is not yet clear whether any agreement about the UK’s future relationship with the EU after the end of the transition period has the safeguards needed for health and social care services to access the supplies, workforce and data sharing they need to combat the pandemic. Addressing these concerns will often fall on goodwill and cooperation between the two sides.

“Unfortunately, despite all that has happened this year, negotiators on both sides have not been putting health first. As negotiations enter the crucial final stage we need to see greater prioritisation of health care issues to avoid damaging the NHS and care services and undermining the response to Covid-19.”

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