The UK Government’s Brexit White Paper and its impact on the life sciences sector

Global Publication February 2017

On February 2, 2017, the Government published a White Paper on its plan for exiting and achieving a new partnership with the EU. The White Paper expands upon Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech on January 17, 2017. We have previously written about the speech and earlier developments (The UK government's Brexit plan and its implications for Life Sciences).

The White Paper sets out the 12 principles which will guide the Government in the negotiations. Those principles, and statements made in the White Paper with respect to them, include:



Ensuring the UK remains the best place for science and innovation
  • The Autumn Statement confirmed the long term commitment to research and innovation, including through a substantial increase in Government investment. The Building Our Industrial Strategy green paper builds on this.
  • The Government has established a High Level Stakeholder Working Group on EU Exit, Universities, Research and Innovation to ensure the UK builds on its position in research and innovation excellence. The Government has also taken action to provide reassurance and certainty to the sectors, for example by announcing that researchers should continue to bid for competitive EU research funding, such as Horizon 2020. The Government will work with the European Commission to ensure payment when funds are awarded and the Government will underwrite the payments, even where projects continue beyond the UK’s exit from the EU.
  • The Government welcomes agreement to continue to collaborate with its European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives
Providing certainty and clarity / taking control of our own laws
  • Wherever practical and appropriate, the same rules and laws will apply on the day after the UK leaves the EU as they did before. This approach will preserve the rights and obligations that already exist in the UK under EU law. Once the UK has left the EU, Parliament (and, where appropriate, the devolved legislatures) will decide which elements of that law to keep, amend or repeal. Domestic legislation will need to reflect the agreement negotiated with the EU. The Government will bring forward a White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill that provides more detail.
  • The jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the EU in the UK will be brought to an end.
Ensuring free trade with European markets
  • It is in the interests of the EU and all parts of the UK for the deeply integrated economic relationship between the UK and the EU to be maintained after exit from the EU. Their new relationship should include a new customs agreement.
  • A new free trade agreement may take in elements of Single Market arrangements in certain areas as it makes no sense to start again from scratch with the UK and the remaining Member States have adhered to the same rules for so many years.
  • Close trading relationships exist across a range of sectors. The UK is a major importer and exporter of medicines with the EU.
  • In a number of sectors covering typically high risk goods (such as medicines), the EU has agreed in-depth harmonised regulatory regimes, including for testing and licensing. In many cases EU rules are based on global requirements.
  • There are a number of EU agencies such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA). As part of exit negotiations the Government will discuss with the EU and Member states the UK’s future status and arrangements with regard to these agencies.
  • There may be European programmes in which the UK might want to participate. If so, it is reasonable that the UK should make an appropriate contribution to the EU budget.
Controlling immigration
  • The UK will always welcome genuine students and those with the skills and expertise to make our nation better still.
  • The Government has confirmed that research councils will continue to fund postgraduate students form the EU whose courses start in 2017-18.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has issued a statement which welcomed an ambition to negotiate barrier-free collaboration to support the UK being one of the best places in the world for science and innovation. The ABPI also reiterated its belief that negotiating cooperation and alignment with the EMA is a win-win for the UK and EU.

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