Peter Bone discusses Chris Bryant's Brexiteer retweet

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Layla McCay, a director of policy for NHS Confederation, warned that there is a real risk of drug shortages in the province when grace periods on importing them end in December. Under the terms of the withdrawal agreement the province was effectively kept in the bloc’s single market.

This meant that some goods travelling from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland would have checks.

Grace periods on pharmaceuticals come to an end in December and numerous companies have warned about shortages of vital medicines if the situation isn’t remedied.

Writing in the Independent, Dr McCay warned that people living in Northern Ireland and suffering from serious illnesses faced the “real possibility that in six months’ time, you won’t be able to access the medicines you need”.

She criticised the bloc for rejecting an offer to remedy the situation “within hours”.

“Even if only a handful of patients are affected, that is too great a risk,” she said.

“The UK and EU must come to a swift agreement on how the protocol will work and provide companies with the time, support, and assurances they need to get ready.”

She added: “The UK has put forward proposals aimed at breaking the deadlock on the protocol, even suggesting that medicines be treated as a special case and that they might be removed entirely from its scope.

“Within hours, the EU rejected the proposals and said they would not countenance reopening negotiations on the protocol, although they were prepared to ‘continue to seek creative solutions … within the framework of the protocol’.

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“Although the EU has paused legal action against the UK while discussions on the protocol continue, this merely underlines the urgency of engaging constructively to find a mutually acceptable solution.”

“We must not allow Northern Irish patients to go to the back of the queue for medicines, or even worse, to become collateral damage in the political haggling between the UK and the EU.

“It’s unacceptable that people could find themselves without essential medication next year if the UK and the EU cannot come up with a solution.

“The NHS Confederation has been calling urgently for patients to be taken out of the firing line. This latest setback raises the stakes even higher.”

She spoke shortly after Brexit Secretary Lord Frost called for a radical overhaul of the protocol.

The EU has consistently refused to renegotiate any parts of the withdrawal agreement but said there is scope within it to make some changes.

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