[Mr Steve McCabe in the Chair]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered the future of the European Medicines Agency.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I am grateful for the opportunity to secure the debate, which I called with the expectation of being answered by a Minister from the Department for Exiting the European Union. It is unclear to me why that is not happening; perhaps that could be No. 171 on our list of questions about Brexit. None the less, I am sure we can expect a robust and helpful response from the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat), who perhaps can explain that to us.
I start by laying my cards on the table. I am old enough to remember the John Major Government and the Maastricht treaty; I was perhaps one of the few at that time who actually read it. I also remember the troubles that the then Prime Minister had. Despite those difficult times, one of his major achievements was to secure the location of the European Medicines Agency in the United Kingdom. More than 20 years on, that success by a Conservative Prime Minister is being put at risk by the foolish path being pursued by the Conservative Government today. John Major famously referred to some of his colleagues—I apologise for this, Mr McCabe— as “bastards”; now they are running the show.
Last week, the Chancellor wryly commented that no one voted for Brexit to make us poorer. I wonder how many knew about the potential impact on one of our key industries, the future of which we are discussing today. My guess is that very few knew and that very few were voting to destroy British jobs and to do reckless damage to one of our great success stories. The area of the country I represent is a world leader in pharmaceuticals and life sciences. The Cambridge biomedical campus is at the pinnacle of international research, with, just a few years ago, AstraZeneca choosing Cambridge as its location rather than elsewhere in the world—but that was before 23 June.
Given that the vast majority know nothing of all this, let us set out some of the details about the European Medicines Agency and the significant role it has played over the past two decades in providing a harmonised approach to medicines regulation throughout the European Union. It was set up in 1995 from predecessor organisations, is a decentralised agency of the European Union and is located in London. Its mission is
“to foster scientific excellence in the evaluation and supervision of medicines, for the benefit of public and animal health in the European Union”.
Responsible for the scientific evaluation of human and veterinary medicines developed by pharmaceutical companies for use in the European Union, it can grant marketing authorisations for medicines that allow for their use across the 28 EU member states, as well as the countries of the European economic area—Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
The EMA describes its four main functions as to facilitate development and access to medicines, to evaluate applications for marketing authorisation, to monitor the safety of medicines across their life cycle and to provide information to healthcare professionals and patients. Essentially, it is tasked with ensuring all medicines available on the EU market are safe, effective and of high quality, and it seeks to harmonise the work of existing national medicine regulatory bodies, such as the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. It serves a market of more than 500 million people living in the European Union and covers a market of 25% of global pharmaceutical sales, of which the UK constitutes just 3%.
We should understand the EMA in the context of the growing global pharmaceutical market and the UK’s world-leading life sciences sector. The Prime Minister herself said in July:
“It is hard to think of an industry of greater strategic importance to Britain than its pharmaceutical industry”.
Indeed, the life sciences sector in our country has a turnover of more than £60 billion per year and generates exports worth £30 billion. In 2014 it invested £4 billion in research and development—more than any other sector. It employs 220,000 people in our country and 25% of the world’s top prescription medicines were discovered and developed in the United Kingdom. In my constituency of Cambridge alone, there are more than 160 life science companies reinforcing the strong local knowledge economy, and contributing to the economy well outside my region as well.
In passing, it is perhaps worth noting that Cambridge is one of just a handful of UK cities making a net contribution to the UK Treasury, thanks in no small part to its vibrant life sciences industry. Thus, the Cambridge view on how we secure future prosperity may perhaps be worth listening to. Cambridge, and those in this key sector, are most certainly unhappy with the current route being taken for a range of reasons and the future of the EMA is a good example. What will be its future, post-Brexit? What will be the impact on the future of our country’s life sciences industry more generally? What will be the real impact on the NHS—the real impact, not the bus slogan? The head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, has rightly insisted that the regulation of medicines and devices must be considered during the Brexit negotiations.
What are the options? As I have noted, countries inside the European economic area are included within the EMA’s centralised marketing authorisation procedure, which means that, if the UK remains part of the economic area, the process for regulating and supplying medicines in our country might see little change, which could bring stability for the sector.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. My concern is that, outside the European Union, we will be in a position in which pharmaceutical companies will have to go to the EMA to go through the process to make the drugs available, and subsequently have to do the same thing for the purposes of UK law, which will cause delay. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important that we have parallel processes so that there is no disadvantage to patients in this country?
My hon. Friend pre-empts the points that I will move on to. The issue of delay is really important.
I was talking about the option of staying within the European economic area. Sadly, from what we are hearing, and from what is possibly happening in the Chamber at this very moment, that is an option the Government do not seem to be entertaining. If we do not, pharmaceutical companies might have to apply separately to the UK’s MHRA if they want to supply a drug in the UK, as my hon. Friend has pointed out. Most commentators predict that that is likely to lead to a slower, less efficient regulatory process.
The Association of Medical Research Charities has pointed out that the strong and aligned medicines regulation across the EU, underpinned by science, is essential to bringing new medicines to patients in a way that minimises delay and costs. At the weekend, the chief executive of AstraZeneca made exactly that point—that, without the EMA, NHS patients would get new drugs more slowly and drug costs to the NHS would rise, meaning less money for the NHS; not quite what was written on the bus. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that the Government believe that people voted for less money for the NHS. That is certainly not the general understanding.
There is also an associated worry that smaller biotech companies, the lifeblood of our future prosperity, which in many cases are pioneering revolutionary treatments, will lack the capacity to file multiple applications at once and to handle all the associated paperwork. Some will struggle on, and we wish them every success, but I fear others will go elsewhere, to our detriment.
The MHRA finds itself in a potentially difficult place. It has commented, carefully, in response to the referendum result:
“We will continue to work to the highest levels of excellence and quality, working with and supporting our customers, partners and stakeholders to protect health and improve lives. Working closely with government, we will consider the implications for the work of the Agency. We will continue to make a major contribution globally to improving public health through the effective regulation of medicines and medical devices, underpinned by science and research.”
Those words, and the intention behind them, are encouraging, if unsurprising, but the MHRA has been put in a difficult and uncertain position. No major member state has left the EU before, so there is no model to follow for disentangling the UK’s medicines and life science industry from the EMA. The EMA and the MHRA work symbiotically and their separation is likely to be complex. The MHRA may be left with a bigger workload, and pharmaceutical developers may well prioritise the much larger EU market and delay securing regulatory approval in the UK. Indeed, US and Japanese companies already file in their home markets first before seeking approval in the European economic area. The UK, with its much smaller market, will be in danger of being at the back of the queue.
As we have heard, the EMA has allowed UK patients faster access to new treatments. It is worth noting that, in Australia and Canada, where medicines are licensed nationally, patients have slower access. On average, new medicines come to market six to 12 months later than in the US and the European Union. It seems likely we will be in the same position. Is that really what people voted for—longer delays in getting life-saving treatments? Again, I seek the Minister’s view.
The damage is not only done to us. The BioIndustry Association warns that, without Britain, the European Medicines Agency could also end up losing out. It would sorely miss the MHRA’s strengths in patient safety regulation. The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has said that European colleagues are desperate for the MHRA to be retained as part of the regulatory process, owing to the high regard in which it is held. Both the ABPI and the Association of Medical Research Charities advocate ongoing regulatory co-operation between the EMA and the MHRA. The ABPI suggests that there is a strong rationale for seeking regulatory co-operation on the basis of the public health benefits to patients. The organisation says that strong, globally aligned medicines regulation has proven effective in bringing new medicines to patients quickly, without the additional costs of multiple regulatory systems. I believe we should do all we can to safeguard that.
The Government wrote in July that their renegotiation on the new European Union-United Kingdom relationship includes looking at the relationship between the UK and the EU medicines regulatory framework. I would appreciate an update on what they now believe that new relationship might look like and whether regulatory co-operation might still be possible.
The hon. Gentleman is making a powerful case. These points were raised with the Select Committee on Health in the run-up to the referendum. Will he join me in calling for people to submit further evidence to the Health Committee, now that we have launched our inquiry into what the Government’s priorities should be during their negotiations on the terms of our withdrawal?
I thank the Chair of the Health Committee for her intervention. I certainly encourage those in my area and others to take up that offer. We will be doing so.
Let me come to the most tangible issue of all: the future physical location of the European Medicines Agency. Just last month, the Government said in a written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne):
“The future arrangements which apply in relation to European Union institutions based in the United Kingdom should be determined once the United Kingdom has left the EU. It is too early to speculate on the future location of the European Medicines Agency.”
Early or not, speculation is intense, and others are moving fast to gain advantage. The EMA stated in July that it
“welcomes the interest expressed by some Member States to host the Agency in future”,
while stressing that the decision will be taken
“by common agreement among the representatives of the Member States.”
Various member states are already vying to host the EMA. The Danish Prime Minister has said he is looking at it. The Irish Health Minister has said that attracting the EMA to Dublin is one of the “more interesting” opportunities afforded by Brexit. Italy, Sweden and Spain are also reportedly expressing an interest.
The EMA employs some 900 people. What will happen to their jobs? Will those people move with the agency? Inevitably, there is concern that, should the EMA relocate outside the UK, there will be a knock-on effect on the wider pharmaceuticals and life sciences industries. When they next decide where to locate and invest, does losing the EMA hinder or help? In my view, the answer is fairly clear, but I would welcome the Minister’s view.
We risk losing jobs. We risk losing influence. On a practical level, any company that sells to the European economic area has to have a qualified person for pharmacovigilance—an experienced, senior person based in the European economic area. If we are outside that area, QPPVs would have to move out of the UK or lose their jobs. There are 1,299 QPPVs currently in the UK. That is another potential loss, and of course, every highly-skilled job lost has a multiplier effect.
Perhaps the Minister can give us an estimate of how much all this will cost us. When I asked the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union that question in the House on Monday, he had no answer. I appreciate that the Minister, following the lead given by the Brexit Ministers, is unlikely to be able to provide detailed, concrete information at this stage. I have some sympathy; if you do not have a plan, it is probably best to say as little as possible. However, I hope that the Government understand just how important it is for the UK to retain the closest relationship possible with the European Medicines Agency. It is important for patients. It is important for businesses. It is important for innovation, and it is important for our economy as a whole.
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate on a matter of great importance. May I congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) on securing it? As my party’s health spokesperson in Westminster, I have been contacted by pharmaceutical companies about this issue, and I will try to illustrate their concerns in the short time I have.
It was not difficult to predict the tone—I mean this respectfully—of those who are presenting a particular case about the EMA, given their concerns in relation to Brexit. I have a great deal of respect for Members’ opinions on Brexit, and while we must remember that the vote of each Member carries the same weight, I gently remind the House that the die is cast. The people have spoken, and the responsibility of ensuring that we are in the strongest possible position now lies with this House.
I very much welcome this important debate. It is interesting that while we are having this discussion in Westminster Hall, the main Chamber of the House is discussing parliamentary scrutiny of the UK leaving the EU. No doubt this issue will be brought up there. The EMA is one of the mountain of details that the Government must be aware of and plan for when we enter into negotiations for leaving the EU and establishing mutually beneficial trade agreements. The hon. Member for Cambridge set the scene clearly, and although we have different opinions on Europe and Brexit, I do not see any difference in what we are trying to achieve collectively on this issue. Our opinions, focuses and goals are similar, if not exactly the same. That is important.
I will begin with the statement made by the EMA after the referendum result in June. It made it clear that its work will continue as normal. As there is no precedent for a member state leaving the EU, the implications for the location and operation of the EMA are unknown. The EMA also stated that any decision about the location of the agency’s headquarters would be made by common agreement among member states.
The Brexit negotiation team—the Secretaries of State for Exiting the European Union, for International Trade and for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and the Prime Minister—will need information to set out a strategy for dealing with this issue. The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and his team need the thoughtful consideration of those with an insight into this matter, so that they can strike the right way forward. It is important that we do that.
The helpful debate pack we have from the Library indicates that the pharmaceuticals sector has unfortunately declined as a percentage of the economy in the past five or six years, when we have been in the EU. Does my hon. Friend agree that the outlook of every hon. Member, and throughout society in the UK, should be that we need to redouble our efforts to ensure that the line on that graph begins to go up, rather than continuing to decline?
I thank my hon. Friend for his comment. I was not aware until seeing the briefing pack that there had been a decrease in the pharmaceutical business over the past few years; I actually thought we were holding our own and moving forward. Brexit will give us the opportunity to move forward, so we should look positively upon where we are.
This debate is not simply an opportunity for remainers to highlight something that may be difficult to negotiate, with no desire other than to prove their opinion on Europe. There is nothing wrong with that—people have different opinions—but let us work together to ensure that we deliver.
Is it not possible that part of the reason why the pharmaceutical industry has gone down is that the clinical trials directive of 2001 was very bureaucratic? Following that, we had a fall of one quarter in trial research in the UK, particularly in oncology. That directive is due to be replaced in 2018 with the EMA’s new regulation, which will streamline it.
I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention and the knowledge she brings to this Chamber and the House. I hope that we can improve on what she refers to when we get into the Brexit negotiations, and through our negotiations outside Europe when article 50 is triggered next year.
Let us work together to allow the EMA and the MHRA to come to an arrangement to continue what has been a great partnership to date and has achieved many results. According to the Financial Times, the EMA outsources up to a third of its work to the MHRA, and that work is responsible for a third of the MHRA’s income. A report in The BMJ states that that work makes the UK an attractive location to carry out clinical trials. The hon. Lady outlined that in her intervention, and I know that the Minister will respond and the shadow Front-Bench spokesman will add his comments.
That relationship, which has been proven to work, does not have to die because the EMA may—I emphasise “may”—move its headquarters. Work must be undertaken to underline the fact that although we will not be in the EU, we will remain the best in Europe at this type of clinical work. We have many things to be thankful for in our experience of it. We all understand the red tape in Europe, and I find it very hard to believe that the only reason why the work was outsourced to the MHRA was the location of the EMA.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I want to return to the point made by the hon. Members for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) and for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford). The Government need to be aware of the connectivity between the university sector, the clinical trials sector, the pharmaceutical sector and beyond, and of the importance of where the EMA sits in that. I would be grateful for an assurance from the Minister that we are putting everything we can into ensuring that the situation is sorted effectively and quickly.
I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention and for the knowledge she brings to these debates. She is right in saying that we want a continuation of the good work with universities. Queen’s University Belfast has a partnership with pharmaceutical companies throughout the world, doing clinical trials and marvellous work, as do many other universities across the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We could do that even better, and we should be doing so.
It was because of the quality of service and the tendering process that we showed that this was the best place for the work to be carried out, and that will remain so no matter where the EMA locates its headquarters. I cannot blame the Republic of Ireland and other countries for putting down a marker that their country could be the home of the EMA when it is time for it to move. If this were an opportunity for business in my constituency, I would also be highlighting our ability to take the business on board. However, panic stations need not be manned tomorrow, because those countries are hoping that an opportunity will arise when we leave in the not-too-distant future.
It is clear that countries that are members of the EEA are covered by the EMA and have access to the centralised marketing authorisation procedure. That is important, as it may mean that the UK could continue to have that procedure after leaving the EU, but it will depend on the negotiations and the UK’s resulting position in the single market. If the UK did not become a member of the EEA, pharmaceutical companies would need to apply separately for marketing authorisations from the MHRA for a medicine they wished to supply in the UK. That will be covered the negotiations.
We must have faith in the negotiations and in those who have been tasked with the job. Let us support the Ministers who have been given that job and encourage them to move forward. I hope they will read the Hansard report of this debate. We are not in the main Chamber, but the contributions made here are important in formulating policy and moving forward.
I have been contacted by Muscular Dystrophy UK, which has asked me to ask some questions of those who will enter the negotiations so that they are recorded in Hansard. I am happy to do so. Will the Government ensure that there is a parallel approval system for new treatments, so that after the UK exits the EU, EMA approvals that are granted apply to the UK at the same time? Will the Government increase the capacity of the MHRA and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence so that the regulatory and approval processes are faster and can cope with the growing number of emerging treatments for rare diseases in forthcoming years? It is important to underline the issue of rare diseases—I think every hon. Member in the Chamber today has spoken about it at some point. We are all aware of the need for medicines, investigations and work to find new medicines to heal people better.
Those questions need to be considered, and a constructive approach that accepts there will be a change and seeks to influence the way the change takes place is the best way forward as we begin to work on the details that will shape our new position in Europe outside the EU. Let us focus on that.
I am nothing if not a realist, and my decision to support Brexit was not made on a whim or through emotion. It was made after thoughtful consideration that on the whole, we can do better for our country than the way things stand. That will come about through massive change and an overhaul of systems, and this is one of the changes that must happen. The onus is now on the Government, and particularly the team that is working on the negotiations, to ensure that we address the matter and gain the best possible outcome. I thank the hon. Member for Cambridge for giving us the chance to make a contribution to finding the way forward and highlighting the work that must be done to ensure that our MHRA, and indeed our system for clinical trials, continues to encourage work to be carried out here. We need to cement partnerships so that we can make the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland a better place for pharmaceutical companies.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) for securing this important and timely debate. I am aware of how important academic and medical research is to his constituents and his constituency. I am also aware of the standing that the work done in Cambridge gives to the United Kingdom on a global stage. Given our current state of political uncertainty, I thank him for all the work he is doing in this area.
Some hon. Members will know that I worked as a biochemist in the National Health Service for 33 years before being elected to serve as the MP for Heywood and Middleton. Medical research and innovation have been at the very heart of my professional career, working and collaborating with others from across the world here in the UK to focus on improving the quality of patient care. Like other hon. Members, I respect and will uphold the decision of the referendum on 23 June that the British public wish to leave the European Union, but I will continue to argue that our leaving does not mean isolation from the European Union.
We must not become isolated from world-leading medical and academic research or from collaborative innovation on life-saving medicines. We must reject isolation from funding and economic prosperity. We must ensure we are not isolated from regulatory safeguards or from providing our citizens and patients with the best quality of life and healthcare. Isolation in medical terminology denotes a hospital or ward for patients with contagious or infectious diseases. We should not isolate or quarantine ourselves and become, in effect, the sick man of Europe. Keeping institutions such as the European Medicines Agency is key to the future of British science and medicine, and to accelerated access to treatments for patients in the UK.
As a representative of a north-west England constituency, I know just how important the pharmaceutical industry is, not only in providing life-saving drugs, but in providing high-skilled training and jobs. Greater Manchester has the most pharmaceutical employees of any region with just over 6,000 workers, totalling 18% of the total jobs in this industry across the UK. The pharmaceutical market in the EU as a whole employs 700,000 people. Every job in the pharmaceutical industry creates three to four more jobs through indirect employment.
As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on medical research, I know how imperative enabling timely patient access to new medicines is and how it plays a vital role in supporting the development of medicines for the benefit of patients, based on a comprehensive scientific evaluation of data and procedural clinical testing. The EMA does that by developing guidelines and setting standards, while co-ordinating the rigorous monitoring of pharmaceutical companies’ compliance with their pharmacovigilance obligations. It provides comprehensive information for the public on the safety of medicines and co-operates extensively with external parties—in particular, representatives of patients and healthcare professionals. The proposed great repeal Bill should ensure that all those aspects are preserved in UK law and harmonised with EU legislation and directives. Let us take, for example, Cancer Research UK, which directly funds more than 200 clinical trials, 28% of which involve at least one other EU country. Any change to EU legislation would put those pan-EU trials at risk.
The EMA has achieved notable and substantial advancements in its field, recommending approximately 1,000 medicines to the European Commission for a marketing authorisation for all EU member states. Those medicines benefit patients suffering from all types of diseases, including cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders, infectious diseases and autoimmune disorders. The EMA has also excelled in specialised areas such as medicines for rare diseases, medicines for children and advanced-therapy medicines. It has built a broad access to clinical data, allowing shared knowledge to be applied in future research, and has thus increased the efficiency of the development of medicines.
Of course, behind all those achievements are people. We have a duty to give reassurance immediately to the staff of the EMA. Of its 890 employees, 93% were born outside the UK. We must clarify that they will be able to continue to live and work in the UK; indeed, we must strive to end the uncertainty that so many of these workers are feeling at the moment. Although the complexities of this matter and the wider issues that this debate raises cannot be confined to a soundbite or a sentence, some of the language and tone on immigration during the past few weeks has been regrettably toxic. The French microbiologist Louis Pasteur said: “Science knows no country”. In that spirit, I advocate the positives of not only immigration, but innovation. The two are inherently intertwined in the scientific and healthcare community.
Only last week, two British scientists, Duncan Haldane and Sir Fraser Stoddart, collected Nobel prizes for science. I congratulate them and their teams on those awards. Both those eminent British-born scientists have worked in the UK and abroad, and each of them warned that the risk of Brexit could mean “a big negative” for British science.
We must continue to foster scientific excellence post Brexit, full stop. Retaining the EMA here in London is essential to harbouring and cementing those values. The time for speculation is over. The Government proclaim that they want “a country that works for everyone”, but if they do not stand up now and speak up for the scientific community, they will end up creating a country that stands isolated from scientific research and innovation —a country that is neither welcoming nor working.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I thank the hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) for initiating this very important debate.
As we know, the European Medicines Agency is a decentralised agency of the European Union, employing about 890 people and located at Canary Wharf in London, which makes it the biggest EU operation in the UK. As we have heard, its staff is multinational; only 7% are from the UK, but all now face the prospect of a painful and uncertain period that almost inevitably will lead to relocation. It is inconceivable to me that an EU institution would not be located within the EU, although that will be decided by the member states at some point after the UK has left. Given that it took seven years to establish the organisation and given the possible further complication of its recent 25-year lease for its headquarters, who knows how long it may take to disentangle?
Of course, it is not just the staff who face the prospect of an expensive move. There are likely to be repercussions for the public purse and implications for medicine regulation. We know that currently more than one third —almost 40%, in fact—of EU drug approvals are outsourced to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which clearly places significant reliance on that business for its income. Consequently, there will be a financial gap for the UK. I would be interested to hear from the Minister how the Government plan to plug that gap.
The complications are not just financial; there may well be implications for how medicines are regulated. We seem to be looking at a hard Brexit. If the UK does not become a member of the European economic area, marketing authorisations will be required from the MHRA for the UK. I am in no doubt that the implications of that will be less efficiency and possibly longer processes for obtaining authorisations in the EU and the UK, resulting—I fear—in innovative drugs taking longer to reach patients. Some industry leaders predict delays in the region of 150 days, based on the examples of Switzerland and Canada.
According to a piece that appeared in the Financial Times, when Sir Michael Rawlins, chair of the MHRA, was asked whether it would be able to take on all the extra work registering new drugs and medical devices that is currently carried out by the EMA, he said: “Certainly not.” Considerable investment and recruitment would be required to re-establish it as a stand-alone national regulator.
The EMA is central to the harmonised approach to medicines regulation. Losing this mechanism would have huge implications for the way in which drugs and medicines are tested and marketed, with concerns already expressed by many in the pharmaceutical industry that leaving the EU will result in the UK losing out on some trials that might otherwise benefit patients, as we will no longer be part of that harmonised procedure. The pharma industry argues that the UK is involved in about 40% of all adult rare disease trials in the EU at present, but that would be undermined by a change of status. Some in the pharma industry argue that that would in itself reduce the importance of this country in the eyes of the global drug companies. Being outside the EU would mean that the UK was not part of the harmonised procedure and so might lose out on some trials that might otherwise benefit patients. Officials at the National Eczema Society say that they have been informed by two US companies that trials of new treatments will not take place in the UK in the event of Brexit.
Across the UK, the pharmaceutical industry will be dealt a hammer blow through the loss of the European Medicines Agency, which is crucial for attracting foreign investment. It is clear that international pharma companies like to be close to their regulators. Until now, the EMA has been an attraction for companies to locate their European headquarters in the UK. The Japanese Government recently published a report detailing consequences if requirements from UK-EU negotiations are not delivered. Many Japanese pharmaceutical companies operate in London because of the EMA’s location in London. The Japanese Government have said that the appeal of London as an environment for the development of pharmaceuticals would be lost, which could lead to a shift in the flow of research and development funds and personnel elsewhere.
Thanks to a reckless gamble with our membership of the EU, the UK now faces the prospect of losing being part of the EMA, which not only will mean patients losing out on pioneering and beneficial medical trials, but will leave a disastrous trail when the inevitable happens and it seeks to have its headquarters in the EU.
It is a pleasure to serve under you, Mr McCabe. I, too, pay tribute to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) for obtaining the debate and for such an excellent opening speech, which laid out many of the key issues that we face.
In my constituency there is GlaxoSmithKline, which produces the largest amount of one of the key antibiotics used across the world. It is natural that there are concerns in my constituency and in that business. It is slightly tragic that we are having both of the debates on this issue today, instead of prior to the June referendum. Perhaps a little more airing of what we gain from the EU might have been helpful. Forty years of describing the EU in terms of straight bananas and bureaucracy has not been helpful.
In health, we have had nothing but gains. The two canards that were raised during the debate—people ahead of you in the queue to see the GP and £350 million a week on the side of a bus—have evaporated. Someone is much more likely to be treated by an EU national than to be squeezed out of an appointment in a hospital.
We have had nothing but health gains. The EMA is typical of everything the EU has done in many areas. Before 1995—prior to expansion, so we would be talking about 12 countries—we faced regulation in multiple languages across multiple countries. What we have seen in the EU is the development of harmonisation of regulation to the point where we have a single agency. Having one agency means, as the hon. Member for Cambridge said, that drugs get from research bench to patients much more quickly. The EMA monitors safety throughout Europe so that we can more easily pick it up when, in real-life use, there turns out to be a problem with a drug. It also helps to direct research into the big challenges that the population of the EU faces.
There has been a lot of discussion about the MHRA. It is clear that there would need to be significant investment in it. Even if we are still in the EEA or in a position to be part of the EMA, we will not have any influence. The MHRA does not just provide briefs and reviews. It was massive in influencing the structure and principles of the EMA, and such influence will be lost. The loss of influence over pharmaceutical firms that are here has been talked about. The chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has said that he foresees a major loss of inward investment in this country because of the loss of the EMA headquarters in London and because of our possible exit from the EMA.
Many such examples will come up in different sectors with regard to Brexit, but the EMA encapsulates all of it. It is not a separate bureaucracy telling us what to do. Twenty-eight countries were working together to find the slickest way to encourage quicker research and to bring it to some benefit. Research is a big part of this. It has been possible for the EMA to direct research on the challenges that the whole of Europe faces, such as antimicrobial resistance or modern plagues such as Ebola. As was mentioned, it supports research into rare diseases. One pharmaceutical firm or one academic unit would not access enough patients to ever get an answer. Across a population of 500 million, we have the real potential—we are already seeing that potential come through—to find answers to some of the horrific illnesses suffered by small groups in a population. “Suffering” is the right word, and we will lose the potential to find solutions.
Lots of drug companies do not bother trialling drugs in children because it is just too much hassle. The EMA has been able to push and say, “We need to have paediatric trials. We need to have trials in children.” That dovetails with the business of research across the EU, which has the biggest research network in the world. It is much bigger than in China and the US. The UK has led in benefiting from that. We put in £5.5 billion and get £8.8 billion out. The biggest share of research of all types through Horizon 2020 and framework 7 has been done in this country, and we are in danger of losing that.
The reason we lead in pharmaceuticals is not just because the headquarters is here; it is because of the dovetailing between academia, pharmaceuticals and universities, and the ability of researchers to move around. We have gained because English has become the language of research and science, because of America. So that has been a benefit that we have had. Of course that is a benefit that we will keep, but we are in danger of sitting out on a little rock all by ourselves.
There may be a delay if pharmaceutical firms have to go through a separate process with the MHRA, but what about British firms? What about the innovative medicines initiative, which encourages small and medium-sized enterprises and often works on the biological aspects of new medicines? They will face an absolute nightmare trying to sell their drugs in Europe. That is something that we are not giving remotely enough attention to.
I was a remainer. I am still a remainer and my population were remainers. Obviously, we are not happy with the idea of being taken out of Europe and of being taken towards such a hard Brexit, as the rhetoric has suggested in the past month. We need to realise what we may lose. We still have everything to fight for. What “Brexit means Brexit” actually means can still make a huge difference to what we manage to hang on to from the EU and what we lose completely. We need to ensure that the people who are at the table take account of this.
I worry because we are describing the EU as a shop. We are talking only about the single market and whether we will get access. Sometimes people mean that as a shorthand for everything else we have gained, but that allows us to be mentally sloppy and therefore allows someone to say, “Oh, good. We are like Canada. We have got access to the single market. Job done.” But it is not job done. The EMA was an example of Europe coming together, streamlining itself and finding a better way forward.
It has been recognised that the clinical trials directive of 2001 made it very difficult for the UK because the system became quite bureaucratic. The EMA has responded to that. The vastly streamlined clinical trials regulation starts in 2018. In fact, the EMA and the EU in this sector are getting rid of bureaucracy and making it easier for our companies and our academics to do research throughout Europe. Some 80% of all the top flight research of all kinds is international and multinational. If we do not allow the researchers to easily work with each other, we are cutting our noses off to spite our faces. We need to recognise that Europe has not just been about burning orchards or straight bananas. It has brought us huge gains in health and safety, in research and in getting drugs to patients. I call on the Minister to ensure that that message is brought home to the core Brexit team as strongly as he can manage.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) on securing this important debate and on the powerful and knowledgeable way that he made his case today. I share his disappointment that this matter is not being responded to by the Department for Exiting the European Union, but I understand that there are competing interests today. However, I hope that the Minister will undertake to raise the issues set out today with his colleagues in the Department and will answer some of the questions posed today.
I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge was and remains a passionate advocate for both the European Union and his constituency, and today he has channelled his disappointment at our impending departure from the EU into a well argued case to support key industries in his constituency. He spoke about the local interest that he has in this issue. The Cambridge biomedical campus is one of the most significant sites for medical research not only in this country, but anywhere in the world. Like him, I represent a constituency with an interest in the science and research sector, which could take on even more significance with the proposed Cheshire science corridor, which has the potential to create more than 15,000 new jobs by 2030, around a third of which could be in my constituency. Of course, I do not have to tell the Minister about that because the science corridor benefits Warrington as well as Ellesmere Port. Even before projects such as the Cheshire science corridor come to fruition, the north-west, as we have heard, is already one of the leading regions in the country for the pharmaceutical industry, employing about 18% of the total national workforce.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge said, the industry is a massive part of our country’s economy, with a turnover of more than £60 billion a year and exports worth around half of that. In 2014, it invested £4 billion in research and development: more than any other sector. It also employs some 220,000 people. I have set out those facts to paint a clearer picture of what is at stake in today’s debate and why it is so important that we begin to offer some clarity about what our plans are, not only for the future of the European Medicines Agency, but for pharmaceutical research, development and regulation more widely. I believe that the importance of the issue is reflected in the number of Members attending the debate, even though the bigger picture on our exit from the European Union is being debated in the main Chamber now.
I appreciate the tone that the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) adopted. I think that he was saying that, wherever we came from pre-referendum, and whatever our views on the European Union, the vast majority of Members now want to ensure that our departure happens on the best possible terms. I regret the mischaracterisation of Members who request greater scrutiny and debate on the terms of exit as being involved in a Machiavellian plot to undo the referendum result. What Members are asking for is scrutiny, transparency and accountability on what is surely the most important issue that the country has faced in a generation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) spoke from great personal experience. She was right to use the word “isolation”. We want to avoid becoming separate from the rest of the world in such an important area. She gave specific examples of the benefits of pan-European research on diseases such as cancer. The hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day) raised important concerns about delays in approval, and the potential loss, on leaving the EU, of our involvement in pharmaceutical trials. He mentioned the concerns of the Japanese Government about the siting of their European bases in London. That echoes concerns that they have raised about other sectors.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) clearly set out the fact that the EMA is not a body that tells us what we should do, which is how much of the European landscape is portrayed. It is part of a collaborative exercise across 28 nations, which have been making real progress. She also set out the financial benefits that this country has received from membership, and highlighted the important point about the difficulty that some smaller British companies may face in exporting their innovations, if we do not get the terms of exit right.
We all remember the famous promise, which several hon. Members have referred to, that the Brexit vote would mean £350 million a week being spent on the NHS. It is fair to say that it is accepted that that figure does not stand up and was misleading, but, as the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire eloquently pointed out, I suspect very few people who voted leave would have appreciated the threat that leaving means to jobs in the science and research sector and to speedy access to new medicines.
No one blames the Department of Health for those misleading claims. Indeed, I know from my own parliamentary questions that Ministers sought legal advice about the use of the NHS logo by the leave campaign. However, we are entitled to ask for more from Ministers on the near total absence of work to prepare for the possibility of a leave vote. For example, on 11 July, I asked the Secretary of State what assessment he had made
“of the potential effect on workforce numbers in the NHS of the UK withdrawing from the EU.”
I was told that no such assessment had taken place. On 6 September I asked what discussions the Secretary of State had had with the Home Secretary
“on the immigration status of NHS employees from other EU countries when the UK leaves the EU.”
I was told only that arrangements were being made for a meeting to take place at some point in the future. A similarly disappointing response from the Government on the issue was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge, who noted that when asked about the future physical location of the EMA the Minister responded that it was “too early to speculate”.
We are not asking the Government to speculate; speculation is happening whether we like it or not. We are asking them to set out some concrete and substantive detail on what they plan to do. We have heard many times from the Prime Minister the words “Brexit means Brexit”, and that she is not prepared to give a running commentary. But investment decisions are being made right now, and if we cannot begin to provide some certainty we shall quickly find out that the UK and, in particular, places such as Cambridge and Cheshire will miss out on investment. It is about time we got some clarity on the Government’s position.
The first and most obvious point is the location of the EMA. We have already heard that countries from around the world are queueing up to offer it a new home. Having heard the benefits that it brings we can understand why they are forming an orderly queue. I know that the Minister does not want to speculate on what will happen, but will he at least set out whether, as part of the negotiations, he will take steps to try to retain the EMA headquarters in London, if that is possible? Will he also provide clarity about what steps the Government will take, if the EMA does relocate, to safeguard the headquarters of major international pharmaceutical and life sciences companies?
Beyond the future location of the EMA, there are wider issues about how medicines will be regulated in future, which could not only have an impact on investment but affect how quickly new medicines reach UK patients. Various hon. Members have mentioned that. Will we be able to safeguard the UK’s position as one of the leading locations for clinical trials in Europe? Clearly, a lot of Members feel passionately about that. Will the Government guarantee that the UK will continue to adhere to the EU regulatory framework on the authorisation and conduct of clinical trials? What assurances can the Minister give us that retaining access to the centralised marketing authorisation procedure will be a key part of our Brexit negotiations? Will the Government seek to negotiate continued access for UK research institutions to the innovative medicines initiative and other EU-funded research and collaboration programmes?
If the UK is left in the position of developing a separate regulatory framework from the EU, not only will that make it a much less attractive place in which to develop, manufacture and launch new products; it could also signify the end of accelerated access to treatments for patients in the UK, putting us to the back of the queue when new medicines are developed. Patients in Australia and Canada, where medicines are licensed nationally, have a comparative delay of six to 12 months before new medicines come to market. For people with rare conditions that could mean the difference between life and death.
European co-operation also provides some key benefits in terms of patient safety. One example is the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which assists in our response to communicable diseases and pandemics. Another is the co-operation that reduces the risk of falsified medicines reaching UK patients. Can the Minister confirm that we will seek to continue to co-operate with our neighbours on those crucial issues?
What assessment has been made of the impact of the EMA’s leaving on the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency? As the hon. Member for Strangford said, work from the EMA is a substantial source of income for the MHRA, accounting for up to a third of its income. What provision has the Department made for the potential shortfall, particularly if the MHRA will have more responsibilities in future? As the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire said, in any scenario, it is likely that the MHRA will require further investment. What provision has been made for that?
This has been a wide-ranging and well informed debate. While we recognise that the issue does not begin and end with the physical location of the EMA and the 900 staff based there, there are at the heart of it, as my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton said, 900 people—highly skilled and able to take their talents probably anywhere in the world—who face a future that is a vacuum. They will all have families and plans, and it is unrealistic to expect them to put their lives on hold for two or three years while things are sorted out.
I appreciate the Government’s reluctance to be drawn into making substantial commitments on the issues, but we run risks with respect to decisions about investment, future co-operation and, indeed, staff retention, if we do not begin to make our position clear. I hope that, when the Minister gets to his feet, we shall begin to get some certainty about the Government’s intentions as to seeking regulatory co-operation and, most importantly, safeguarding future investment in the sectors that we have heard about today.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today, Mr McCabe. I congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) and all the other hon. Members who have brought their experience to bear in the debate. I am sorry to disappoint everyone by not being from the Brexit Department. I will pass that on to those who are in it, but as has been noted, they are otherwise engaged in the main Chamber.
One reason why I am particularly pleased that we have had this debate today—I regret that all the answers may not be clear in 11 minutes’ time—is that often when there is talk in the media about the Brexit negotiations we are about to have, we hear a great deal about the importance of financial services, the City and passporting, and of the need to get those things right and the terrible effect it will have on our economy if we do not. The fact that we have had this debate, and that the hon. Gentleman and others have talked about how important the medicines industry is to our economy—not just in Cambridge, Cheshire or Scotland, but right across the country—is a reminder of the importance of this issue and has rightly put it on the agenda. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will keep it on the agenda, as will Ministers from the Department of Health.
At the start of the debate, the hon. Gentleman quoted the Prime Minister, who said:
“It is hard to think of an industry of greater strategic importance to Britain than its pharmaceutical industry”.
That is on the cover of a report, which I recommend everyone reads, on the structure and future of the life sciences industry post-Brexit. In a moment, I will talk a bit more about the work that the Office for Life Sciences is doing in that area. The pharmaceuticals industry is right at the centre point of where we need to be as a country in development work. It is an area that we are world-class in—an area of advanced manufacturing, which we need to be doing more of. We are leveraging the expertise and brilliant work in universities to actually make money, in a way that we do not do in all industries at all times. It is vital that we do not lose that.
I will repeat fairly quickly some of the statistics that we have heard on the structure of the industry. There are nearly 6,000 companies in the industry in the UK, and two of the major companies are GSK—located in many parts of the country, including Ayrshire—and AstraZeneca, which is located in Cambridge in particular. I have made the point earlier that a larger part of it was located in Cheshire a couple of years ago. Those are major, world-beating organisations, and for us to have an industrial future and a future as a country, we have to nurture them. In fairness, the thought that we would not do that is a nonsense. A fair challenge is to make sure that we do it right and keep it on the agenda, and I will try to address that today.
However, this is not a European industry, it is a global industry. AstraZeneca and GSK also have massive facilities in places such as Sweden and Philadelphia—all over the world. Of course it is absolutely essential that we get our relationship with the EU right. I think the point was made earlier that we have 3% of the EU market in terms of sales, although we are a lot bigger than that in terms of drug production and the importance of the pharmaceutical industry—it is probably more like 10%. GSK’s recent announcement of an £800 million investment in biologic and bioelectronic activity is to be welcomed.
The EMA was formed, as was generously mentioned, in 1995. There are 890 staff, the majority of whom are not from the UK; I think that only something like 60 are UK-based. The hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) made the fair point that those people have families and futures, and asked how they are to be protected. The Prime Minister has said that we hope and expect that all EU nationals who work in the UK will stay here into the future. I have not heard any leader of any other country in Europe make the reciprocal point. I do not know if that is on the Labour party’s list of 171 questions, but it would be reasonable if it were. Having the EMA in the UK is of benefit to us not just because of those jobs but because, as Members have said, it is natural that people like to be close to their regulators. It would be reasonable to suppose that, although that might not be a decisive factor in many investment decisions, it would be a factor.
We also have the UK agencies: the MHRA, which covers medicines, and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, which covers veterinary medical activities. They have 1,200 staff and 160 staff respectively. The point was made today that their activities are commingled with those of the EMA. Many of the EMA’s major committees are chaired by people from the UK, including from the MHRA and VMD. Equally importantly, the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) made the point that 30% of its activities are done by the MHRA. The figure I have is 20%, but nevertheless, a significant amount of work done for the EMA is done in the UK. That is not just because of location—it is not just because the people who do that work are down the road. It is because they have the expertise, the science base and the people that are needed. Of course, with Brexit, all of that is up for discussion.
We have touched on the university sector, and I will not say a great deal about that. I have already made the point that the industry is an example of us successfully taking a sector with world-class, world-beating innovation and turning that into world-class, world-beating companies, in a way that we do not everywhere. It is of paramount importance that the sort of research that goes on in our universities continues. The Government intend to make sure that happens and, indeed, to increase it.
I have set out the regulatory and industry structure, but we are just about to impose Brexit on all of that. That is where we get into the territory of speculation and conjecture, and I apologise that I cannot be more definitive. Many of the questions that have legitimately been raised, in particular by the Labour spokesman, the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders), will be central to any negotiation that the Government take part in. It is not possible for a Minister to address the House of Commons and say, “This is our position, these are our red lines, these are the things we are going to give a bit on and these are the things that really matter to us.” That would be nonsense. That is not how any of the commercial companies located in Cambridge or other places would deal with things. What we have to do—this is the role of Members here today—is make sure that the issues are raised with and understood by the negotiating team, because there will be trade-offs in any negotiation.
With respect to some of the Members who have spoken, I have to say that we do pay £20 billion a year to the EU. We may all vary in our view of how much value for money that provides, but the fact is the £350 million on the side of the bus was not an entirely made-up number. That did not influence how I voted in the referendum, but it was not an entirely made-up number. We pay £20 billion a year for the things that we get from the EU, one of which is the EMA and the activity around it. There is a dialogue to be had both on that amount of money and on issues such as the location of the EMA and all that goes with it. Of course, its location is one point to be discussed, and I have no idea how that will end up. The point has been made that it regulates not just for the EU but for Liechtenstein and Norway—I think there was another country as well, but I have not written it down. The UK could be another such country. For me to say it is an absolute line in the sand that the EMA must stay in the UK would be a nonsense.
A number of Members have asked what we are doing to prepare for the negotiations that will happen. That question can be divided into two parts: what are the agencies—the VMD and the MHRA—doing, and what are the Government doing? The agencies have set up groups looking at the opportunities and at how regulation might carry on into the future. A number of Members have made the point that there might be a time lag in medicines coming to the UK if they have to be regulated by more than one body, or if in the future the EMA does it separately from how we do it in the UK. That is really a decision for the UK. It is about how we choose to regulate, and that decision has not yet been made. It would be disappointing if that happened, and many of us will be working hard to ensure that it does not.
The Government have set out fairly clearly that we intend to underwrite EU payments to academic projects even after we have left the EU, to protect the important activity of research programmes. Through the Office for Life Sciences, we have set up a steering group charged with informing how we make the transition. The group is chaired by the Secretary of State, Sir Andrew Witty and Pascal Soriot from AstraZeneca, and over the next few months it will be responsible for informing our negotiating position.
I do not know how many colleagues know about the report, “Maintaining and growing the UK’s world leading Life Sciences sector in the context of leaving the EU”. I think it was put together by PricewaterhouseCoopers. It is a good start in setting out a number of issues we have heard about today and the importance of getting the process right. I very much recommend it. It does not answer all the questions, but it sets out the issues in areas such as trade, people, research, funding and regulation.
A whole string of points were made in Members’ contributions this afternoon. I do not want to spend too long on them, but the hon. Member for Cambridge mentioned that not being part of the EMA’s marketing authorisation might cause delays. That depends on how we set up regulation in this country, and there are a lot of choices. A lot of other countries, including Switzerland and Japan, regulate in different ways, and it would be premature for me to say too much about it. The hon. Gentleman also made the valid point that the EMA and the MHRA are completely intermingled, and that both benefit from the current arrangements. It is not just about the EMA contracting and hiring the MHRA. We do a lot of the work that leads to that top-level and highly professional European legislation.
The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) reminded us that whatever we think, the country has voted and we are going to leave the EU. There is no ambiguity about that, and we have to make the most of it. That is a mature reflection, because it forces us to address the negotiations, and not to continue to go over what was on the side of the bus and all the rest of it. We are where we are, and we need to make the situation the best that it can be.
The hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton used her experience and knowledge as a research scientist to make a good speech. She made a point about people, which I tried to answer by reflecting on other EU states. She mentioned the Nobel prize winners’ remarks. I heard those remarks as well and thought that there was a slight irony in that they were asking us to remain in the EU and so on from the University of Chicago. That shows that we live in the world, not just in Europe, and we must reflect on that.
Those Nobel prize winners represent the last time we had a major brain drain, when, in the ’80s, we lost some of the best minds from the UK. That is one of the dangers: the people who want to be at the cutting edge will not see this as the place to be.
That is a fair point. It could be a danger. The point I was making was that they made the plea to remain in the EU from the United States, which is the leader in many aspects of science. I think we can agree that science is international—it operates in Japan, the US, the UK, Germany, France and elsewhere—and that, however we achieve Brexit, we should do what we can to avoid creating barriers to internationalisation.
Will the Minister give way?
Maybe we cannot agree on that. I give way to the hon. Lady.
There is no irony in the comments of the Nobel prize winners just because they were made by British scientists working in the United States. That fact only emphasises how international science is. We must not fall into the trap of taking the line that was spread before the referendum:—that this country has had enough of experts. Those people are experts, and we should listen to what they have to say because they are the people who know what is going on. They know what the effect on British science will be if the EMA and its principles are lost.
We can agree that the scientific principles at the core of our world-leading science must not be lost in regulation. We can also agree that science is international. It is in all our interests, and in the interests of our communities and our children, that this country continues to do world-class science as part of an international collaboration. That is the Government’s intent and will.
I will finish by talking about our world-class industry.
I have asked a couple of questions about muscular dystrophy on behalf of my constituents. I do not expect the Minister to give me a response today, but I remind him gently to provide a written response and perhaps make it available to other hon. Members who are here.
Clearly when I used the word “finish”, people sprang into action. I will ensure that the hon. Gentleman gets a written answer to his questions on muscular dystrophy.
We do world-class science in this country. We must continue to do so, and to have a world-class pharmaceutical industry, with all that means for value added and input to the Exchequer. Governments are not the reason why we are among the best in the world in gene therapy and cell therapy, and they are not the reason why we have built £60 billion pharmaceutical organisations GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca. It is important that we get the regulatory environment right, and the Department of Health and the Department for Exiting the European Union will ensure that the negotiations we are about to have address those issues.
Does the Minister agree that the reason why we have such world-class expertise is the workforce? We must be absolutely clear and send a message to the world that, within our science and research community, we will not be maintaining a list of who is here from the EU and who is a British scientist. We must unequivocally send a message that Britain is open to scientists, researchers and the medical and healthcare workforce from around the world and the EU, not just from Britain.
That last intervention—I say “last” somewhat hopefully—unites us all. It would be ridiculous if the world-class science that we must continue to do compromised on matters like that. I completely agree with my hon. Friend’s point, and there is agreement across Government about that. If we need to make that clearer, we should.
I will finish now, as nobody is springing to their feet. I thank all hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Cambridge, for putting the issue on the agenda. It is right and important that the topic is at the forefront of our negotiations, and that we get the right answer in the end.
I thank all hon. Members who have taken part today. As so often in these Westminster Hall debates, we have had a much more constructive, collaborative discussion than we might have had in the other Chamber.
The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) said that the die is cast. This morning I was described on my local radio station, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, as a “remoaner” by one of the more constructive UK Independence party MEPs. I was not sure whether to be insulted or flattered, but my retort was that I think I am a realist. Today’s debate has shown a realistic understanding of the challenges and options that lie ahead. I am encouraged, perhaps more than is helpful for the Minister with regard to his ministerial friends in the Brexit Department, by the suggestion that the European economic area option is the best one for this sector. Many of us will be making that case, and I suspect that the debate will continue. It is right to highlight the importance of the sector, and I am thankful for the opportunity to do so today.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered the future of the European Medicines Agency.