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Simon Coveney says people shouldn't stockpile medicines because of Brexit

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs was speaking to RTÉ ahead of Cabinet discussions for no-deal Brexit planning.

Image: Sam Boal

TÁNAISTE AND MINISTER for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said that there is enough medicine in Ireland for 8 to 12 weeks in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and that people should not be stockpiling medicines, as it may cause issues later on.

“The pharmaceutical industry has been preparing for this, as has the Department of Health and the HSE. There aren’t any medicines that are on any kind of a risk-list in terms of not being supplied after the end of March,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

He said that contingency work around medicines has been going on for many months now, and that they would be monitoring the situation as time goes on.

The UK is due to leave the European Union by 11pm on 29 March; the drafted Withdrawal Agreement has been rejected by the House of Commons. In subsequent votes, a group of MPs voted against ruling out a no-deal Brexit.

“The one thing I would say, pharmacists and people in general should not be stockpiling medicines, because sometimes stockpiling in itself sometimes causes a problem with supply. 
We are confident that there is between 8 and 12 weeks of supply of virtually all medicines in Ireland.

Coveney said that Ireland relies heavily on Britain for its medicines, and that this would need to change in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“The regulation of medicines is an EU competence, so when the UK leaves the EU they won’t have the European Medicines Agency based in the UK. Many of the medicines based in the UK, unless there’s a future agreement, they won’t be able to get the European authorisations they need.

We have a huge reliance on sourcing medicines from Britain, and we’re going to have to move away from that to source those medicines elsewhere.

Coveney also said that while a huge amount of contingency planning is in place, that a no-deal would still “put a huge strain” on a variety of sectors in Ireland.

“I don’t want to give the impression that it will be easily managed… but we’re doing everything that we physically can to protect Irish interests.”

Cabinet approval

The government will be signing off on ‘omnibus legislation’ today, which comprises of 16 pieces of legislation from nine different government departments all related to no-deal Brexit planning. “It’s a mega bill, if you like,” Coveney said.

The legislation will ensure children from Northern Ireland can access specialist paediatric care in the Republic.

“It also does things we never thought we’d have to do, like put a legislative base in place for someone to get on a train in Dublin and go to Belfast, because they’ll now be going out of the European Union into a third country and back again.”

There are 21 different social welfare payments and pension payments that Irish citizens who are living in the UK access from Ireland; new laws need to be passed to protect those in the case of a no-deal Brexit. 

When asked about veterinary and food checks and ports and airports, Coveney said that they were carried out on an all-island basis because “it made sense to do it” that way.

He said that he was still of the opinion that there wouldn’t be a no-deal Brexit.

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