Though it’s less reported than disputes over food standards, it’s worth noting the looming conflict over medicine supplies to Northern Ireland. While one would have thought that EU bureaucrats would have learned that restricting medical supplies is not likely to win them friends in the UK or elsewhere, the EU has nonetheless refused to lift the 2023 deadline for the imposition of full restrictions on medical imports. And like with food imports, the EU’s single market is (in reality) at little risk from movement of medicines.
Forcing the issue here may, if anything, be an even greater PR mistake than insisting on food import checks. 98% of Ulster’s medical supplies and equipment come from the rest of the UK, and is covered by the same, widely popular NHS regime. Inflexibility here will only confirm suspicions that the bloc is indifferent to the needs of the province. The EU’s peremptory triggering of Article 16 in March was, after all, related to the export of medicines. Intransigence here will only weaken the EU’s standing, and make it politically impossible for the UK government to implement the Protocol fully even if it wanted to.