Life sciences unite in Brexit warning, but British public still divided

The UK’s life sciences sector has publicly backed the UK’s continued membership of the European Union, ahead of next month’s referendum – but opinion polls suggest UK voters are split on whether to leave or stay in.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, alongside the BioIndustry Association, brought together 93 signatories in a letter to the Observer, including Sir Andrew Witty, chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline and Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, in support of staying in the EU.

A “Brexit” would risk employment of 220,000 people, billions of pounds of inward investment and life sciences exports to the EU, last year worth more than £29 million every day, the ABPI warned. New government statistics published over the weekend show the UK life sciences sector is worth £60 billion, the ABPI noted.

But a “Poll of Polls” by the National Centre for Social Research, published last week and amalgamating results of other polls between 25 April and 3 May, showed a 50-50 split in voters’ opinions.

Witty and Soriot already pledged their support to the UK remaining in the EU in February and the ABPI made similar arguments in its letter.

The ABPI argued that there are “significant advantages” in the UK remaining in the EU, with its harmonised regulatory approval system, which ensures UK patients benefit from medicines more quickly, and allowing drugs researched and manufactured in the UK to be available across the EU sooner.

It added that continued UK membership of the EU will benefit scientific activity and R&D jobs, allowing researchers and small business to benefit from access to EU funding and from scientific collaborations.

ABPI chief executive Mike Thompson said: “We are concerned that the lack of clarity around what would happen to the regulation, patents ecosystem, financing and funding for UK bioscience if the UK were to leave the EU creates risk and uncertainty that could undermine the future success of the sector. It’s vital the UK remains engaged in the EU to influence legislative and regulatory policy developments affecting the life sciences ecosystem.”

Today, the Ethical Medicines Industry Group, representing small to medium-sized pharma, biotech and medical technology firms, will also debate the issue of the UK’s membership of the EU.

Related stories:

UK patients could be denied medicines in event of Brexit – biotechs

AstraZeneca and Glaxo sign letter warning of European exit

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