I do not expect the UK to leave the EU without a deal but I am pleased that preparations have been made for all eventualities. Over £4 billion has been provided to help government departments prepare for the UK’s exit and this includes a no deal situation.
The Department for Health and Social Care has been working closely with the pharmaceutical companies to ensure they have a minimum of six weeks’ extra supply so that they are able to fulfil their contractual obligations over the supply of medicines and medical devices in the event of a no deal exit from the EU. I very much welcome that ministers have confirmed they have had excellent engagement with industry on this, and ministers have stated repeatedly that with the cooperation of the supply chain, they are confident that the supply of medicines will continue unhindered in the event of a no deal exit.
I completely understand concerns regarding the impact of our withdrawal from the European Union on foreign nationals working in the NHS. That is why I welcome the Government’s repeated commitment that all EU nationals working in the UK will be able to remain in the country with the same rights as they enjoy today. What is more, it is right that the Government has confirmed they will be able to do this without charge.
The latest NHS workforce statistics show that there are over 4,300 more EU nationals working in the NHS than there were in June 2016. I would also note that the proportion of our NHS workforce made up by EU nationals has risen to 5.6 per cent, up from 3.1 per cent in 2010.
Regarding future trade agreements, and on the specific issue of public healthcare, the Government is committed to protecting the NHS. The NHS is safeguarded by specific exemptions in all EU trade agreements and, as our country leaves the EU, the UK will continue to ensure that rigorous protections for the NHS are included in all trade agreements it is party to.