The UK is engaged in talks with EU authorities to leave the bloc. While much has been discussed on citizen rights and the cost of such withdrawal that increased from €60 billion to €100 billion, according to Financial Times sources. There is another sector that shall suffer dramatically from such uncertainty: the British med-tech scene, which represents 12% of the European market.
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) warns that if policymakers fail to harmonize regulations for medical devices and research, the UK will lose jobs and billions of pounds of exports to the continent, estimated on €100 billion. The organisation made available its report. According to the IME, the British government will also have to replace the European funds for research purposes. A great puzzle taking into account that annually the European Research Council allocated more that €1 billion to the United Kingdom. This might compromise the industry’s competitiveness, especially for a sector that relies on innovation.
According to Dr Helen Meese, Head of Healthcare at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers:
“The UK Government must ensure that the Med Tech industry is high on its priority list as it prepares to negotiate the country’s departure from the EU. Not only does this industry make a huge contribution to domestic and international healthcare ― from the design of artificial joints and organs through to the production of aids for independent living ― the sector is also worth £17bn to the UK economy and supports 90,000 jobs.
As Dr. Meese summarized, stakes are high. The sector can’t rely only on the NHS (National Health System) to develop its sales. While in the EU, British companies have to certify their products (Conformité européenne). Without this label, med products are not allowed to be market in Member States.
For the IME, there are two solutions for the imbroglio. First would be that the UK recognizes European directives and the CE. The second would be sign a bilateral agreement with the EU, in which London will accept European directives. This model has been put in place with Switzerland. The issue is that the British industry won’t be able to help shaping those directives because of the Brexit. But is that so? With so many lobbyists in Brussels, it would be hard to believe. OK, there won’t be British policymakers in the EU anymore, but they can still sponsor initiatives with other EU MEPs behind the curtains.
Although the landscape looks bleak for now, all the involved parties shall identify a common ground. After all, more than 3,000 British rely on this sector, and the UK has some cutting edge technology that might be hard to find elsewhere.