On 27 February 2023, an agreement in principle was reached by the UK and EU, known as the Windsor Agreement, relating to post-Brexit trade issues in Northern Ireland (NI). The principles are expected to be approved shortly by the EU-UK Joint Committee. The UK Government and the EU institutions will then enact legislative measures to make the necessary amendments to their laws.
Following Brexit, from 31 January 2020, the UK is no longer subject to EU single-market rules or the EU legislative framework. However, under the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement’s Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, NI continues to follow EU rules. This is to avoid customs checks between NI and the Republic of Ireland. In practice, this means that medicinal products on the market in NI must be authorised in line with the EU regime, which no longer applies in Great Britain. This causes difficulties for companies marketing their products in the UK, as different authorisations, following different rules, apply in different parts of the UK. It also means that patients have access to different products in GB or NI.
The current agreement covers a number of sectors, and in relation to medicines, the aim is to simplify supply between GB and NI, and ensure that only one authorisation is needed and one set of rules needs to be followed within the UK. However, much detail still needs to be published so that companies can fully understand the impact of the changes on their medicines supply chains.