Watch: Sharma pressed over post-Brexit concerns for vaccine supply chain
A government minister has refused to guarantee the supply of coronavirus vaccines won’t be affected by “Brexit disruption”.
It comes after the boss of a British company supplying a crucial ingredient of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – which achieved a major breakthrough on Monday – warned avoiding Brexit border disruption will be "a crucial step" to ensuring it is available to people in the UK.
The Brexit “transition period”, in which the UK has effectively remained a member of the EU, will end in seven weeks’ time.
Business secretary Alok Sharma, appearing at a Downing Street press conference, was asked to give a “categorical” guarantee that any “Brexit disruption” will not impact vaccine supply chains.
However, he didn’t answer the question.
Sharma only said how Downing Street is “investing hundreds of millions of pounds in terms of border infrastructure” while urging businesses “to be prepared” for end of the transition period.
Read his full response below…
“Supply chains is obviously an issue across many sectors but that is precisely why we have been investing hundreds of millions of pounds in terms of border infrastructure. We have been investing in grants for customs intermediaries. It’s why we are making a very big effort to communicate with businesses to make sure they are ready so they can get customs clearances done. All of that work is ongoing. If we all get prepared, we will be in the right place post-transition. But the key message that I want to leave for businesses is that whatever deal we end up in terms of our future relationship with the EU, there will be changes for business and businesses do need to be prepared. So please, have a look, go onto the website. Please, have a look at the information that the business department and indeed other departments in government are setting out to you. And we are there to help, so if people need to get in contact with us, they should absolutely do so.”
It comes as talks on a post-Brexit trade deal look set to go to the wire.
Negotiations are expected to continue next week but the EU believes a deal must be concluded by mid-November in order for it to be ratified by the end of the year, when the transition period ends.
Downing Street has acknowledged that “significant gaps” still remain between the two sides and “time is in short supply”.
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