UK biopharma says Brexit would be “bad for business”
Over 90 industry leaders sign letter supporting the Remain campaign
More than 90 top executives in the UK’s biopharma industry have added their signatures to a letter warning of “complexity and uncertainty” if the UK votes to leave the EU on 23 June.
The letter – signed by GlaxoSmithKline chief executive Sir Andrew Witty and his counterpart at AstraZeneca Pascal Soriot among many others – notes that people in the UK benefits from membership of the EU as they get access to new medicines more quickly.
Similarly, the UK life sciences industry, which employs 222,000 people across the country, benefits from having its products made available across the EU sooner.
“We see significant advantages for the UK life sciences sector in the UK remaining part of the EU,” notes the letter.
A key benefit is operating within the EU’s “established and harmonised” regulatory system – which operates primarily out of the European Medicines Agency’s facility in London – while continued membership of the EU “will also benefit scientific activity and R&D jobs”.
It has been suggested that in the event of Brexit the EMA and the soon-to-be-launched Unified Patent Court would be relocated from London, according to a report in the Financial Times today.
The pharma industry is the latest to pitch into the politicking around the forthcoming referendum, and is a boost to the government-led Remain campaign, which has suggested that £250bn of trade is at risk if the UK leaves the EU.
The figures are disputed by the Leave campaign, which insists industry will be better off thanks to new trade deals and a reduction in European Commission-imposed bureaucracy.
Nevertheless, recent polls have suggested that industry feels threatened by the uncertainty. Three quarter of the automotive sector want Britain to stay in the EU for example, with Toyota threatening cutbacks in the event of Brexit, and similar findings have been reported in surveys of the technology, retail, logistics and agricultural sectors.
There has also been strong support for the Remain campaign from the Royal Society, which has suggested that if there is a loss of freedom of movement of scientists between the UK and the rest of Europe it will be “a disaster for UK science and universities”.
Echoing that position the biopharma letter notes that staying in the EU means “UK researchers and small businesses will continue to benefit from access to EU funding and from collaborations with cutting-edge science across the continent”.
“This will help the UK to continue to attract investment for the R&D activities that will help to discover and develop the next generation of treatments for cancer, respiratory disease, and Alzheimer’s, and to continue pioneering work in new vaccines and antibiotics,” it adds.
The pharma industry spends £4bn on R&D and also attracts high levels of inward investment – government support has led to some £6bn in the last five years alone, says the letter.
“Remaining in a reformed and more competitive EU will offer stability and predictability as a platform for even greater success,” it goes on. “It will help patients here get access to better drugs, faster, and support jobs in the industries that create these vital technologies.”
“Staying in will be better for the health and wealth of the UK.”