On Friday, in a statement the European Commission said, it is scheduled to make legal changes aimed at easing the transport of medicines from Britain to Northern Ireland.
The move could release the build up of pressure over EU-UK ties over Northern Ireland’s future following Brexit.
Currently the flow of medicines is unimpeded, however it is set to change when the grace period expires at the end of 2021.
After that British operators would need to move regulatory compliance and logistics and testing facilities to the European Union or to Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom but within the EU single market for goods.
The cost of the move could result in some companies deciding to stop supplying medicines to Northern Ireland, exacerbating trading problems the province is facing after Brexit.
To mitigate such an issue, the EU executive is set to propose an exception to existing law allowing compliance and logistics to be located in the British mainland.
Such a change is also likely to impact smaller markets including Ireland, Cyprus, and Malta , which have traditionally received certain medicines from Britain.
A further change, solely for Northern Ireland, could allow marketing of drugs in Northern Ireland after they have been authorised by the British medicines regulator, but before approval from the European Medicines Agency.
The move is likely to impact new cancer treatments.
The European Commission declined to comment on the substance of any proposals.
Changes to law would require approval by the European Parliament and EU governments in 2022 and will not represent a formal agreement with Britain on the subject. While Britain has called for the removal of medicines entirely from the protocol that determines post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, and has called for the renegotiation of the protocol itself, the EU has offered a package of measures designed to ease transit of goods to Northern Ireland.
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