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Article 50 Has Been Triggered – So What’s Next for the Life Sciences Sector?

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This article has been submitted by Greenaway Scott

As Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 this week business owners across all sectors of the UK have started to ask themselves exactly what the long term implications of this landmark decision will be for their businesses. The process of triggering Article 50 has been a lengthy one with much debate and discussion, however many are still unsure as to what the legal and professional ramifications of the UK’s departure from the European could actually mean.

One sector in particular which will be looking to reassess its position within the UK market is the Life Sciences and Healthcare sector.  The importance of the healthcare sector to the economy is significant. According to a report from PwC, the Healthcare sector contributed approximately £30.7 billion to the economy in 2015 making it one of the top ten industry sectors in the UK.

The healthcare sector is also responsible for employing over 222,000 people in the UK. With each Life Sciences job supporting 2.5 jobs elsewhere in the economy the sector supports a massive 482,000 jobs in the UK. So, with its significant economic influence evident, what areas could see change after the Article 50 period comes to an end and Brexit takes place? We have taken a look at following three key areas we think could be subject to big changes over the next two years.

Regulation is vital to the continuation of the sector both in the UK and Europe. Currently products manufactured in the UK and the EU can be imported and exported mutually thanks to the EU regulatory framework. Regulation covers aspects including trading, clinical trial approval, and marketing authorisations. The impact that could have on the sector, will now depend on the EU/UK relationship going forwards. For example, changes could be minimal if the UK remains in the European Economic Area; it could also negotiate sector specific access to the single market through the European Free Trade Association. However, changes could be more significant if the UK removes itself from the EU to a greater extent.

Intellectual Property is also a concern within the sector. Intellectual property is vital within the Life Sciences sector to protect and ensure continuous innovation and progress of medical advancement. The departure could have a significant impact on patent filing as the UK could be excluded from the Unified Patent Court – which is open to all member states of the EU. Regulation, which will no longer apply if the UK leaves the EU. The Government will have to decide whether and how to replace this Regulation.

Employees: Businesses may also be concerned about the working rights of employees at the end of the two-year period. Currently workers can operate freely between the UK and EU. However the UK’s departure would affect this privilege which could have a dramatic effect in the Life Sciences sector as 7% of the 73,000 people who make up Life Sciences jobs across the UK are non-British EU citizens. EU residents currently working in these sectors in the UK could also be threatened which could impact productivity.

Anyone with concerns can contact the expert staff at leading business advisory firm Greenaway Scott who are well-placed to support your individual needs over the next two years and beyond.