There’s work to be done on all sides – not just by the negotiators – to prepare supply chains for a future outside the EU.
For anyone already sick of Brexit, Michael Barnier’s recent announcement won’t have been encouraging: “The hard work starts now,” the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters – more than a year after the UK voted to leave.
It’s a big issue – and a particular challenges for some.
One is the pharmaceuticals industry, and a couple of days before Michel Barnier was urging the UK to knuckle down, leaders in the UK and EU pharmaceutical industry were issuing a warning to both Barnier and Britain’s Brexit Secretary David Davis of the risk to supplies of life-saving medicines.
“In the case of an unorderly withdrawal, there is a risk that all goods due to be moved between the UK and EU could be held either at border checks, in warehouses or manufacturing, and/or subject to extensive retesting requirements,” the letter warned.
And it’s not just the industry that’s worried. The week before, the UK’s health secretary and its business secretary called for continued co-operation with the European Medicines Agency after the UK left the EU – “in the interests of public health and safety”.
Preparing your supply chain
Hopefully, these warnings will have their desired effect, and arrangements – transitional or otherwise – will be in place when the negotiations finish. In that case, this will all be put down as a crisis averted or just another “scare story”, according to taste.
As we’ve noted before , though, whatever happens Brexit will be a game changer not just for pharma but for all businesses. The currency volatility we’ve already seen could well return as the deadline for negotiations gets nearer; the regulatory framework remains uncertain; and supply chains are going to have to get more complex – perhaps in the short-term, as contingencies are put in place, or in the long-term to deal with new realities.
Many companies have already made changes to their supply chains to make them more resilient to whatever results from the negotiations; many other are still looking but have at least gained an understanding of the risks they face and the vulnerabilities in their supplies. For any that haven’t made much progress, though, or those that haven’t even begun, the hard work truly does need to start now. Time is not on our side.