Brexit talks between the UK and EU could be delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak, Michael Gove has warned today.
Speaking at the Future Relationship with the European Union Committee this morning, Mr Gove admitted negotiations could now be delayed following “indications” from the EU. Earlier today, experts warned Brexit could prevent Britain from getting its hands on a coronavirus vaccine quickly and cheaply. A vaccine against the potentially deadly flu-like virus is not expected to be available for more than a year. By this time the UK could be outside the authority of the EU’s medicines regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
And pharmaceutical firms are more likely to prioritise the EU market rather than submitting their drug to the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency first.
Olivier Wouters, assistant professor of health policy at the London School of Economics, told politico.eu: “The European Medicines Agency is representing a patient pool of 500 million-odd patients.
“That seems like a more lucrative market for a drug company or a vaccine maker to prioritise.”
The EMA has an emergency procedure for the fast-track approval of a new vaccine in the event of a pandemic with authorisation given in 70 days instead of the usual 210 days.
Mr Wouters said a British plea for special access to this system was “theoretically possible” but doubted it would be successful.
He said: “I’m not sure that the European counterparts would accept the UK authorities cherry-picking where they want to be part of European legislation and take part in European initiatives.”
The coronavirus outbreak may delay the next round of Brexit talks between the UK and the EU, Downing Street has said.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Talks remain scheduled to go ahead next week but clearly we will keep the situation under review and we will be guided by the scientific advice.
“There will be a joint UK-EU decision on how to proceed with this round.”
Officials were understood to be looking at contingencies, with the possibility of a secure conference call among the options.