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Business & Regulation Trends & Forecasts

Are You Suffering from Brexit Fatigue?

Last month marked three years since the UK voted to leave the European Union. A great deal has happened in British politics in those three years and yet, the more things change, the more they stay the same. We still do not know how the Brexit process will end – but it’s not looking great.

As Steve Bates, CEO of the UK BioIndustry Organisation, said in June, the risk of “no deal” has risen in recent weeks (1). Parliament has rejected the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) on three occasions; EU leaders have made it clear that there will be no renegotiation of the WA, nor will they consider another Article 50 extension for the purpose of reopening negotiations on the WA. Meanwhile, both candidates for Prime Minister have promised to renegotiate the WA and, if the EU isn’t forthcoming, to leave the EU on October 31 without a deal.

Given these facts, no deal looks more likely than ever. And you would be forgiven for adopting a “let’s just get it over with” mindset, when faced with the negative impact that uncertainty is having on pharma. A stark example: the Department for International Trade’s inward investment results show a 41 percent drop in new Forein Direct Investment projects and a 45 percent drop in new jobs created in the UK biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors over the past three years (2).

But I’m afraid to say that no deal wouldn’t be the end of it. After the fallout, both sides would be back at the negotiating table, except this time a deal would need to be unanimously ratified by the entire EU27 – including all regional parliaments. And even if the WA is signed before the new October 31 deadline, it says little about what the UK’s final relationship with the EU might look like. A reasonably hard brexit is still a possibility after the two-year, standstill "transition" period.

In this issue, Frithjof Holtz discusses how Merck has been preparing for no deal. He says that “everything remains constant” following the extension – and, even if the deal is signed, they will still be preparing for big changes. I think that is the right attitude. Brexit is a process, not an event; though the coming months will be the most important so far, vigilance is a must. The industry must be ready for the long haul. 

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  1. BIA, “BIA Brexit Briefing Webinar - June 2019” (2019). Last accessed 1 July, 2019. Available at:
  2. Department for International Trade, “Department for International Trade inward investment results tables 2018 to 2019” (2019). Last accessed 1 July, 2019. Available at:
About the Author
James Strachan

Over the course of my Biomedical Sciences degree it dawned on me that my goal of becoming a scientist didn’t quite mesh with my lack of affinity for lab work. Thinking on my decision to pursue biology rather than English at age 15 – despite an aptitude for the latter – I realized that science writing was a way to combine what I loved with what I was good at.


From there I set out to gather as much freelancing experience as I could, spending 2 years developing scientific content for International Innovation, before completing an MSc in Science Communication. After gaining invaluable experience in supporting the communications efforts of CERN and IN-PART, I joined Texere – where I am focused on producing consistently engaging, cutting-edge and innovative content for our specialist audiences around the world.

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