Unite: Lost £70m GSK investment shows pharma jobs must be protected during Brexit

Unite has said Britain must remain part of the European Medicines Agency and maintain access to the EU single market and a customs union to protect pharmaceutical jobs.

The warning came after the UK’s biggest pharmaceutical firm said it was diverting £70m from cancer drug development to prepare for Brexit.

Glaxo-SmithKline (GSK) president of global affairs Phil Thomson told the Commons health select committee that preparing for Brexit will cost the firm “somewhere between £60m and £70m” – money that is coming out of research for cancer treatments.

The intervention came after the UK’s biggest pharmaceutical firms – including AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Roche and Merck – warned of “significant disruption” to the supply of medicines to patients in the event of a hard Brexit.

Unite national officer for pharmaceuticals Tony Devlin said: “Not only is GSK’s shifting £70m away from cancer medicine R&D bad for patients, it is bad for our members whose jobs could also be impacted down the line.

“Nor is there any reason to believe that GSK are the only pharma company diverting money to prepare for Britain’s exit from the EU.

“Compounding an already difficult business environment is the government’s complete mishandling of the Brexit talks and utter lack of clarity over its negotiating position.

“As a matter of urgency the government must stop the infighting, commit to retaining access to the single market and a customs union, as well as remaining within the European Medicines Agency.

“Anything less will see Britain passed over during drug company investment decisions, inflicting needless damage to one of the most important sectors of our economy.”