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DUP North Down MLA and Assembly Health Committee member Alex Easton has pressed the Department of Health to step up efforts to mitigate any risk of delays in the supply of medicines after 1 January as a result of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Commenting after raising the issue with the DoH Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Cathy Harrison during Thursday’s Committee meeting, Mr Easton said:

‘‘As we approach the end of the Brexit transition period the practical challenges facing local businesses and consumers as a direct consequence of the Northern Ireland Protocol are becoming clear for all to see. At today’s Committee I was alarmed to hear Northern Ireland’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officer state that ‘as written, without mitigation’ there is a risk of the supply of vital local medicines being delayed.

As DoH officials prepare to legislate for two distinct legal frameworks in Great Britain and Northern Ireland there will be a growing risk of conflicting guidance given to manufacturers on the rules they must abide by in order to get products authorised and potential for divergence in the future. When we add to this the threat of goods from GB being subject to new checks and tariffs when they enter Northern Ireland - unless the EU agree otherwise - the inevitable result could be delay and cost for patients and staff across Northern Ireland.

Such disruption may even extend to the supply of stockpiles to Northern Ireland - as they are being coordinated nationally.

This is a sorry state of affairs but it simply reflects the legal position agreed by the EU and UK last October. It is astounding - despite the clear implications for the local economy - that its cheerleaders in the Assembly continue to be relentless in their pursuit of the roll-out of the Protocol. That is not a position the DUP is willing to accept.

Moving forward we will be working closely with the Government and with the wider industry to build on the introduction of the Internal Market Bill to provide greater safeguards to internal UK trade and clarity for business. The collateral damage of the NI Protocol must be avoided and the Northern Ireland economy must be protected.’’