EU ‘limiting access to healthcare’ with strict post-Brexit drugs rules ‘Price going up’

Beattie explains how the NI protocol is impacting prescription drugs

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Ireland’s prime minister on Wednesday warned Britain of far-reaching implications for its relations with the European Union if it takes the “reckless” step of seeking to suspend parts of the Northern Irish protocol in its Brexit divorce deal. The European Commission last month offered Britain a package of measures it said could halve customs paperwork, cut checks on meat, dairy and other British food products by 80 percent and ensure the undisturbed flow of medicines. Speaking to GB News, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “I think it’s a very serious matter that we don’t have the same level of access to drug treatments as we did and there is one reason for that and that is the Northern Ireland protocol.

“I think it is wrong that the EU would impose these restrictions in a way that is limiting access to healthcare for citizens in Northern Ireland.

“There is absolutely no threat to the EU single market of drug treatments coming into Northern Ireland for personal use by people in Northern Ireland.

“I think we really need to see an urgent end to this nonsense.”

Unionist Jim Allister added: “The protocol decrees that the other part of the UK is a third country, a foreign country.

“Up to now we’re been part of the same regulated medicine market and able to get access to the same cheaper medicines that are available elsewhere in Europe.

“Now because we’re part of the EU single market, we’re subject to all the restraints and all the impositions and all the costs of the EU medicine market.”

Difficulties in sending some goods to British-run Northern Ireland have prompted London to repeatedly call for widespread changes to the protocol and threaten to trigger safeguard measures in the deal if the EU fails to agree to an overhaul.

Micheal Martin, speaking after meetings with EU and US leaders at the COP26 Summit, described British actions in recent weeks as sabre-rattling and described current British/EU relations as “very challenging and very serious.”

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However, “real progress must be achieved soon” in the negotiations to find a solution to the issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol, Boris Johnson has told the European Union’s top official.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister told European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen during their meeting on the margins of the G20 in Rome that a fix was needed “rapidly” to prevent further disruption in Northern Ireland.

The UK and EU have both put forward proposals to address the dispute over the protocol, the part of the Brexit divorce deal negotiated by Lord Frost and signed by Mr Johnson aimed at avoiding a hard border with Ireland.

The terms effectively kept Northern Ireland in the single market, creating a border down the Irish Sea between Great Britain and the fourth nation of the UK – a situation that has angered Unionists and hit the UK’s internal market.

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But while Brussels has put forward reforms for reducing checks and red tape, London has continued to reject them due to the dispute mechanism role being insisted for the European Court of Justice – a red line for Brexit minister Lord Frost, who has set a December deadline for the protocol talks.

Issuing a readout of the Saturday talks in Italy, a Number 10 spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister welcomed the constructive talks which have taken place and are continuing between the UK and the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“He noted, however, that substantial gaps remain between our positions, including on the issue of governance, and noted that real progress must be achieved soon.

“The Prime Minister underlined the need to agree solutions rapidly to safeguard the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and reduce disruption to families and businesses in Northern Ireland.”

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