Following the EU referendum result, the government has committed to negotiating a new relationship with the European Union and single market, which protects the interests of the UK, the economy and British people.
Our world-leading life science sector – which generates over £60 billion and over 220,000 jobs for the UK economy each year, and provides products which the NHS and UK patients rely on every day - is of critical importance to the country. I want to be clear in the immediate aftermath of the referendum that neither the UK’s commitment to the life science sector nor our legal relationship with Europe have in any way changed, and that it is likely that some time will elapse before any changes to the latter are agreed.
The Prime Minister and I launched the UK’s 10-year Life Science Strategy in 2011 and as the world’s first and only Minister for Life Science, I and the current government remain committed to making sure this process is handled to the maximum benefit of the UK sector.
As the industry and government spoke with one voice before the referendum, so we must now work together again in the best interests of the UK life science sector, patients, taxpayers and the economy, to manage the new situation and negotiate a new relationship with Europe.
This will require us to mitigate every risk, rise to every challenge and seize every opportunity. To do this, we need leadership, clarity and collaboration. In the last week, I have already initiated a work programme with colleagues in BIS, the Department for Health and No.10 to reassure stakeholders that we are actively managing how to preserve and enhance the strength of UK life science.
Our work will involve 3 priorities:
- providing immediate reassurance that – as the Prime Minister has stated – there are no immediate changes to our membership of the European Union and we remain a full member of the EU with full voting rights
- exploring the priorities of the UK life science sector ahead of the UK’s negotiation of a new relationship with the European Union
- beginning the process of exploring how the UK can create a compellingly ambitious domestic landscape in which the United Kingdom is the country of choice to design, develop and introduce innovative health products to market and one in which the lives of NHS patients are transformed by innovative drugs and health technology
I have already spoken to many leaders from industry and the wider sector to reassure them of the government’s commitment.
Last week I announced the formation of the UK EU Steering Group to oversee and manage this transition. The group, which will report to the Ministerial Industry Strategy Group already in place, will provide recommendations and considerations for how the UK can seize the opportunity to define a new relationship with the EU. Over the coming days, weeks and months I will continue to speak with as many people in the sector as possible to assure them of our ambition and commitment to make this work for the UK.
By working together, with pace, vision and shared commitment I believe we can ensure the UK seizes this opportunity to ensure that the process of defining our new relationship with the EU does not undermine confidence in our growing life science sector.