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Committee seeks assurance from Lord Frost on medicine supplies to Northern Ireland

18 November 2021

The House of Lords Sub-Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/ Northern Ireland has written to Lord Frost to raise concerns about the potential impact on the supply of medicines to Northern Ireland if the standstill period ends without agreement on a permanent solution. It also asks about the cost and operational impact of the Protocol on the pharmaceutical industry.


In its introductory report published in July, the Sub-Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland drew attention to the concerns of the pharmaceutical industry about the potential impact on the provision of medicines to Northern Ireland under the Protocol, in particular following the end of the 12-month grace period agreed between the UK and the EU in December 2020.

Following the publication of the Government’s Command Paper in July, its unilateral announcement in September of a ‘standstill period’ for the various grace periods (including that on medicines), and the publication in October of the Commission’s ‘non-paper’ on medicines, the Committee took evidence from representatives of the pharmaceutical industry to explore the issues further.

Today the Committee has written to the Minister to reflect the evidence from the pharmaceutical industry representatives, and asking about:

  • the cost and operational impact on medicine supply to Northern Ireland of Brexit and the Protocol
  • the scale and risk of product withdrawal
  • the scope for cross-border provision on the island of Ireland and the risk to the EU Single Market
  • the impact of the extension of the grace period for medicines
  • the EU’s 13 October ‘non-paper’ on medicines
  • the Government’s 21 July Command Paper
  • the need for a mutually agreed solution
  • engagement with industry representatives

Chair's comments

The Chair of the Committee, Lord Jay of Ewelme, said:

“Medicines is an issue that affects everyone in Northern Ireland, regardless of their political views.

“It is therefore imperative that the UK and the EU work together to come up with a workable and mutually agreeable solution for medicine supply to Northern Ireland as soon as possible, as continued uncertainty is damaging for the pharmaceutical industry, and therefore damaging for the people of Northern Ireland.

“I urge Lord Frost, together with his EU counterparts, to continue positive engagement with the pharmaceutical industry about their concerns and maintain this dialogue in the context of the continuing discussions between the two sides on the future of the Protocol.”

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