Imagine you’re in London and you head to your favorite pub for a Späten. Unfortunately, you find that it’s out of stock. The bar is out of Späten because their shipment is stuck at the border in Dover after being exported from Germany. Most would find this to be a minor annoyance.

Now, imagine you’re a chronically ill person in the same city and you can’t access your medication because a shipment from Aesch, Switzerland is delayed at the border. This carries far more weight.  For someone who suffers from epilepsy, it might be a matter of life and death.   These complications could be a daily reality for many if the United Kingdom departs from the European Union (EU) on October 31, 2019 without a trade agreement deal. Right now, the EU is made up of 28 member states and allows them to trade interchangeably within the EU.

To simplify further, it is the equivalent of a strawberry farm in Georgia sending their crops to a produce wholesaler in Oregon without the need for customs agents to get involved. This type of transaction takes place every day and barely any thought is given to it at all. We just assume our goods will be available when we need them to be. It is also, remarkably the premise that has shaped the UK’s trade economy since the inception of the European Union in 1993.

The logistical complexities associated with the UK’s departure are merely the tip of a supply chain iceberg. Perhaps one of the most enormous problems that has yet to be fully addressed is the process of actually importing pharmaceuticals into the UK.

Long wait times at ports of entry will leave temperature-controlled vaccines susceptible to expiration before ever making it into the country for distribution. According to the UK’s Parliament, the country risks becoming a ‘second tier’ state for pharmaceutical imports (Commons, 2018). This poses a vast public health concern and many are fearing a medication shortage. Some have already reached out to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for assistance. The EMA was previously headquartered in London, but it was forced to relocate to Amsterdam because of the imminent departure from the EU. This resulted in many employees leaving the agency after refusing to relocate. The agency is diligently attempting to stay operational in its full capacity but has had to abandon key initiatives due to staffing.

So, what exactly will happen in October when the UK finally, officially leaves? Right now – it seems that no one really knows for sure, but the consequences could be costly.

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Amber DiCarlo

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