If you're less 'optimistic' about Brexit than the government, the advice is to start stockpiling your own drugs now

The Health Secretary is 'optimistic' about avoiding no deal Brexit, which on this evidence, is just as well

Tom Peck
Political Sketch Writer
Tuesday 23 October 2018 19:14
Thousands take part in Final Say vote in London

Matt Hancock is a decent enough chap. Young-ish, smart, articulate, got his own app, likes to jump off park benches at the weekend.

If you were being wheeled into theatre, a big black felt tip arrow pointing the way to your defective kidney, and standing there in his scrubs in front of a row of gleaming scalpels was someone just like Matt Hancock you’d probably think, ‘Fine.’

It’s a serious but routine operation. The risk of death, which in the metaphor that follows will be represented by ‘no deal Brexit,’ is relatively low. You’ve been told that countless times but, though you know you should know better, in your final moments before the anaesthetic is applied you decide to ask Matt Hancock for some more detail on this troublesome subject.

So just how reassured might you be then if you, who in the metaphor that really is about to follow are represented by the Health and Social Care Select Committee, who were questioning Matt Hancock, who is the Health Secretary, on preparations for a No Deal Brexit, receive the following answers:

“We do not expect a No Deal Brexit. I remain optimistic that we’ll be able to get a good deal.”

But, Matt Hancock what if, what if we don’t get a good deal?

“As a responsible government we ought to be preparing, even though we don’t see a No Deal Brexit as the most likely outcome.”

But, what are the chances, Dr Hancock?

“We need to make sure we in government do what’s necessary.”

And, if it’s a No Deal, Dr Hancock, what happens then?

“We are confident we are getting on with it.”

But what if it’s not fine, Dr Hancock, what if it’s not fine?

“I’m confident as long as everybody does what they need to do everything will be fine.”

The main problem Dr Hancock (who is not a real doctor) had, in convincing the patient that everything would be fine, is that for two long hours before his arrival, the patient had been hearing from a whole range of people, experts in the field, heads of massive pharmaceutical companies, that kind of thing, who told them it absolutely would not be fine.

For example, Matt Hancock admitted the government is spending tens of millions of pounds buying cold warehouses in order to stockpile drugs if, by March 29th next year, the UK leaves the EU without any kind of deal in place for ongoing trade between them, an outcome that is widely perceived at present to be about 50/50. Which was good of him, but the very fact that he’s admitting the government is doing that only leads on to the independent evidence that indicates that to do the job properly, as the Committee Chair Dr Sarah Wollaston (who is a real doctor) told him, would take more than a year, and there are only 157 days left until Brexit.

We are now beyond the date at which the UK’s EU withdrawal agreement was meant to have been negotiated down into a firm agreement, to then be ratified by all of the EU’s member states and other institutions. The October summit has been and gone. The special emergency November summit to replace it looks like it won’t be convened. November then becomes ‘Christmas’.

And here was a chap called Martin Sawer, head of the Healthcare Distribution Association, suggesting that if progress hasn’t been made by January, then perhaps patients might wish to consider stockpiling ‘outside the supply chain.’ Which is to say, the elderly, the infirm or indeed anyone who requires medication, might wish to consider making plans for the possibility that come March they might not be readily available.

Of course, it probably won’t happen. Matt Hancock, after all, “remains optimistic we’ll get a good deal.”

So don’t worry. Everything’s going to be fine, isn’t it, Dr? Isn't it?

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