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The UK left the European Union on 31st January 2020. On 31st December 2020, it will leave the EU single market and customs union. This will bring a series of changes for which Catalan life sciences businesses need to prepare. The UK’s Department for International Trade is ready to provide information and support to the Catalan life sciences ecosystem.

At this time of increased uncertainty due to the Covid-19 crisis, it is more important than ever that we protect our vital trade and investment flows. Not just for the benefit of exporting companies, but also for consumers and workers, whose jobs and livelihoods depend on this commercial relationship. Last year Catalonia exported 4.3 billion euros worth of goods to the UK, making it by far Spain’s largest exporting region to the UK. In the same year, no country in the world invested more in Catalonia than the UK. When it comes to the life sciences sector, the UK and Catalonia share an excellent relationship, underpinned by outstanding research collaborations and long-standing business relationships. The UK Government is committed to supporting these connections as this relationship evolves.

Therefore, the UK’s Department for International Trade has launched an EU-facing campaign to help EU businesses prepare for the end of the UK-EU transition period on 31st December 2020 and has introduced a series of easements to help businesses adjust to the new rules that will come into force on 1st January 2021.

The UK is currently negotiating with the EU, with the aim of reaching a zero-tariff, zero-quota Free Trade Agreement to enter into force on 1st January 2021. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware that regardless of the outcome of Free Trade Agreement negotiations, the UK will be a “third country” and, as such, new requirements will be placed on the movement of goods between the EU and the UK.

Now is the time for Catalan companies to check the new rules and prepare for the changes so that you can continue doing business with the UK in 2021 and beyond. For example, from 2021 EU companies will need to make customs declarations when moving goods between the EU and the UK. If your company has not completed the right customs procedures, the goods may not be able to cross the border. It is also important to check import procedures with the Spanish customs authority.

The UK has announced a staged approach, meaning that it will introduce some controls in phases, rather than everything at once on 1st January 2021. This staged approach will give businesses that are simultaneously dealing with the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic more time to adjust to the new rules. This goes for checks at the border (as explained in the UK’s Border Operating Model), as well as for regulatory processes.

For example, to help ensure continuity of supply of medicines and medical devices from 1st January 2021, in either scenario, the UK will unilaterally recognise certain EU regulatory processes for a time-limited period. These so-called “standstill” measures include accepting certain CE marked devices; accepting batch testing of human medicines carried out in the EU; and recognising licenses of Centrally Authorised Products (CAP) Marketing Authorisation (MA) holders. The UK has also published guidance on registering clinical trials from 2021.

The UK Government is firmly committed to becoming a global science superpower and continuing to collaborate internationally on scientific research, for example, in the fight against Covid-19. That is why, while free movement of people will end when the UK leaves the single market, the UK has launched the new Global Talent fast-track visa scheme to attract the world’s top scientists.

For more information on these changes, you can sign up to webinars and check the websites by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for International Trade, and see updates and webinar slides from the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. You can also check the “Keep Business Moving” homepage for regular updates.

The Biotech & Pharma team at the UK Department for International Trade in Barcelona help Catalan companies and researchers interested in setting up in the UK, as well as link up UK providers with the needs of the Catalan biotech & pharma sector. We continue this trade and investment work, as well as bespoke support for companies as the UK, exits the EU. 

The Biotech & Pharma team at the UK Department for International Trade are available for the BioRegion ecosystem so they can signpost accurate information, set up meetings, and link the businesses and entrepreneurs with their network of expert contacts.

Contact Information

You can get in touch with Jessica Griffiths, Senior Trade & Investment Advisor, UK Department of International Trade, British Consulate Barcelona

Jessica Griffiths:

Aurora Ortega:

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