Missing Government Health Warning

No guarantee that people will not die. Led by Donkeys hoarding in Poole, Dorset, 2019, from Facebook

No Health Warning About the Effects of Brexit

Despite the fact that at least 20 million people and even more animals’ lives are affected by it, you might not know about some of the effects of leaving the EU. There should have been a health warning. The pandemic starting at the beginning of 2020 has overshadowed some and partly hidden the impact of the UK not being part of EU agencies and institutions.

Goodbye, EurAtom; Farewell, EMA!

One of the issues is the loss of access to two vital European agencies: the European Atomic Energy Community, EURATOM and the European Medicines Agency, EMA.

EURATOM guarantees the supply of nuclear fuels and ensures the safety of nuclear materials. The UK’s cancer screening as well as cancer treatment depends on research into and supply of radioisotopes from EURATOM. These cannot be stockpiled as they are highly perishable.

EMA is responsible for the scientific evaluation, supervision and safety monitoring of medicines in the EU. It is a networking organisation whose activities involve thousands of experts from across Europe carrying out the work of EMA’s scientific committees. The UK, as a non-EU country, neither participates in the work of the EMA nor profits from the results of that work.

The Reality of “Frictionless Trade”

It’s not bad enough that we left the two vital agencies. The transport of goods due to the new customs process from the EU to the UK causes severe delays at ports. In the absence of special arrangements at the borders between the EU and the UK,  “just in time” supplies including vital medicines to the UK are at risk.

This was predicted to have a crippling effect on some of the most vulnerable members of the population who depend on medicines for their survival. The list of human and animal patients affected by delays or shortages of life- saving medicines, around 70%  of them made in the EU, is very long. Cancer, diabetes, dialysis, epilepsy, glaucoma, rheumatoid arthritis patients and those with many immune deficiencies are treated with these medicines. 

Health Insecurity Unacceptable

Many of these medicines have short shelf lives, are temperature sensitive and cannot be stockpiled. At the time of a Europe wide shortage of medicines and higher demand created through Covid, we could do without the delays due to additional red tape.

How can we accept that people already coping with life-threatening conditions which put them at higher risk through Covid-19 should be further burdened? The health insecurity arising from this Brexit chaos during a pandemic is taking its toll on their physical and mental health. 

Die-Ins in Parliament Square

In 2019, several of us wanted to draw the attention of Parliament to the issues we could face in the case of a hard Brexit by holding so-called die-ins. This is a protest consisting of lying on the ground like dead bodies which is considered to have a dramatic effect. 

“Die-In” at Parliament Square; photo provided by the author

My experience, sadly, was that we were ignored by politicians and other staff going into the Parliament building. It was mostly tourists who came up to us to ask what we were doing. 

Veterinary Medicines Health Warning

Pet owners and farmers are also aware that many animal medicines also come from the EU and the shortages could prove fatal for pets and farm animals alike. My vet told me in 2019, before the pandemic, that he has issues with the supply of some important medicines.

Author’s interview with vet

As a dog owner, I have also noticed delays in the supply and a huge increase in the cost of veterinary medicines. My elderly dog has been prescribed an anti-epileptic drug for her spinal problems. In 2019, I paid £30 for 100 tablets. Suddenly, after Brexit started to take its effect, the tablets cost me £50, then £60 and in 2021 £70. I thought this might be due to Covid shortages but when I came to Spain in October last year, the same tablets cost me €9. And I did not have to order them in advance as in the UK.

Government Help is Needed

All of the above puts a strain both on the NHS and on farmers. If vital medicines are more expensive, there is less money for wages and necessary investments in equipment. The risk to both medicine and food security are very worrying. The government has to do what it can to ease the burden on the health service and farmers.