#EAPM – #Brexit bogging down Europe as well as Westminster

| March 14, 2019

The European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) 7th Presidency Conference is drawing ever closer, and will be held in Brussels on 8-9 April, writes EAPM Executive Director Denis Horgan. 

Entitled ‘Forward as one: Healthcare Innovation and the need for policymaker engagement’, this year’s event will be slightly different from most of the Alliance’s previous large-scale events, in that the 2019 edition will take place during the run-up to the European Parliament elections in May.

This will be followed by a new Commission entering the Berlaymont further down the line.

The event also dove-tails with the ongoing Brexit process, most definitely the hot topic of the day (week, month…), with the chaos in the UK’s parliament showing no sign of abating at the time of writing.   The European Parliament meeting in Strasbourg this week debated the issue, as well as taking a look at financial aspects of Horizon Europe.

There is no arguing that reaching consensus in politics can sometimes be difficult – if not often quite so difficult as Theresa May et al are making it at the moment – and one focus of the EAPM conference is to set out the key issues around personalised health care in a bid to reach a balance between diverse opinions forming the debate.

We are confident of more success than Mrs May is having and, of course, Brexit and Horizon Europe, alongside many other topics, will be on the table at EAPM’s conference. You can register here and view the conference agenda here.

Brexit comes to Strasbourg. Again…

It’s clear that the lack of a decision and any signs of cohesion from Westminster is helping absolutely nobody to prepare for the UK’s departure, in and outside Britain, when and if it actually happens.    Next week, 21-22 March, will see the latest European Council meeting and, during the EP debate, multiple challenges facing the EU were highlighted, including digitalization, climate change and the upcoming elections. But Brexit appears to be getting in the way of normal business.

It certainly seems that any extension to the process, if requested by Mrs May, will require strong justifications for the EU-27 to agree to it.

Indeed, the European Commission’s Vice President Frans Timmermans and its Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier underlined that the Withdrawal Agreement is the only possible deal available if the UK wants to avoid a disorderly exit.

However, some Eurosceptic and far-right MEPs called for a no-deal departure and for the UK to be “kicked out of the EU”. A bit harsh, but patience is running thin everywhere, now.

There was also regret and doubtless more grumpiness at the fact that Brexit looks to be once again set to high-jack the debate ahead of the summit, when there are plenty of other things to talk about.

Melania Gabriela Ciot, representing the Romanian Presidency, pointed out that, next week, the European Council will meet to discuss latest Brexit developments – an issue, she said, that is about the real lives and jobs of EU and UK citizens.

The Council, she said, is determined to facilitate the conclusion of the Withdrawal Agreement, although not to the detriment of solidarity among member states.

Ms Ciot emphasized that any further talks need an end-point and a purpose. The only current certainty is an increased uncertainty for citizens and businesses. Commissioner Timmermans said he believes that the European Parliament and Commission remain committed to doing as little harm as possible to Europeans, whether they live in the UK or on the continent. The duty is to think about citizens, enterprises and interests broadly on both sides of the Channel, he said.

What the Commission has tried to do, and what Michel Barnier has tried to do, is combine the redlines put on the table by the UK, avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, and maintain the integrity of the single market.

Timmermans believes that the Withdrawal Agreement is the best option, but matters are in the hands of the UK political system. The solution will have to come from London, he told MEPs.

Michel Barnier, the Chief Brexit negotiator, thanked Parliament for the confidence it had placed in him,  and described the current Brexit situation as one of uncertainty affecting Britain and Northern Ireland in particular, but also the whole of Europe.

The purpose of negotiations with the UK has been to reduce uncertainty, he said, adding that the negotiations on the future relationship are the most important.

Barnier reminded MEPs that if the UK wants to leave the EU in an orderly fashion, then the Withdrawal Agreement as it stands is and will remain the only available treaty.

Earlier in the week, in the last round of discussions,the purpose was to provide the House of Commons with new explanations,such as the temporary nature of the backstop.

Barnier said they went as far as they possibly could to help Mrs May get the support of the House of Commons but, crucially, have to maintain peace and stability on the island of Ireland and respect the Good Friday Agreement in every aspect.  Meanwhile, Europe must prepare for the worst-case scenario, he insisted.

At the time of writing UK MPs were due to vote on whether to ask the EU for permission to delay Brexit beyond the 29 March.This in the wake of MPs voting Wednesday evening (13 March) to reject a no-deal Brexit. Theresa May has said since the vote that she will also make a third attempt to get the Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament in the next week.

The prime minister warned that if the deal is not approved, then a long extension will be needed, which will mean the UK taking part in the European elections. “I do not think that would be the right outcome,” Mrs May said. “But the House needs to face up to the consequences of the decisions it has taken.”

Over to you, again, UK…

New Horizons? 

Meanwhile, European negotiators have been meeting once more in a bid to reach a political deal on details of the Horizon Europe research programme, which runs from 2021. Nobody is 100% confident of a deal soon, but it’s being described as still ‘on the cards’.

The European Parliament wants changes to the language on the proposed funding for health research, asking for an emphasis on precision medicine in rare diseases, cardiovascular diseases, rehabilitation for children affected by disabling pathologies, and new treatment methods for infectious diseases to counteract antimicrobial resistance.

The allocation of a lot of cash is up for debate as theCommission has proposed €7.7 billion for health research across theseven-year programme.

On top of this, Parliament is also demanding a say over how the so-called missions will be shaped.  It also wants big increases in salaries for researchers from less-well-off member states.


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Category: A Frontpage, EU, European Alliance for Personalised Medicine, Personalised medicine

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