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This article was originally published in Clinica

As promised in mid-April, and just a month away from the UK’s yes/no vote on continued membership of the EU, the UK ABHI has completed and released a survey of its members’ views on this theme – its second within the past year.

32% of the ABHI’s members responded to the latest survey, which closed on May 19. Half of respondents said they had an established company position. Of this group (roughly 16% of the ABHI), the outcome was convincingly in favor of the UK remaining in the EU:

?98% believed that the UK should remain a member of the EU.

Among respondents that had no established position:

?61% felt it would be in the best interests of their company to remain in the EU. Around one third were uncertain. However, none saw leaving the EU as advantageous to their business.

Rationale

The reasons given for the above answers were influenced by many factors, including:

?major uncertainties over what would happen in the UK in the wake of an EU exit;

?potential currency instabilities – specifically fears over the possibilities for sterling to weaken significantly against the US dollar and euro; and

?the associated rise in the cost of raw materials and manufacturing, and a reduction in the value of sales.

Risks

Respondents felt that free trade across Europe in general worked well, and considered that this could be jeopardised by a UK exit from the EU and in the necessary renegotiations that would have to ensue. Further, MNCs would surely reflect on whether to alter their UK investment strategies if the UK were lose its status – in their eyes – as their principal “gateway to Europe”.

Another key criterion for the UK medtech sector generally is the fact that regulatory market access – in the UK, wider EU and in many non-EU countries besides – is achieved via compliance with EU directives and other EU regulatory instruments that the UK has played a major role in stewarding and overseeing.

The loss of this positive UK role as a decision-maker and opinion leader at the heart of the EU would be felt keenly, by stakeholders across the EU. Moreover, UK companies, once outside the EU, would be open to regulatory divergence with the EU. The possibility would arise of the need to duplicate regulatory processes and procedures.

These are the headline numbers and justifications to emerge from the ABHI survey, which was sent to ABHI members on May 23. The inference is that, for business reasons, the UK medtech industry is strongly attached to the EU status quo. There remain grey areas, however, with sizable minorities unsure of the best result for their company (28%) or the UK as a whole (22%). In addition, a fairly large number of ABHI members declined to respond to the survey.

ABHI director of healthcare policy Richard Devereaux-Phillips, who has co-ordinated this survey – and the June 2015 survey which achieved a 25% response and no overall consensus – understands the reasons behind some companies’ reluctance to go public with their views. He believes that these companies are not ambivalent, rather would be wary of entering a politically-charged debate or passing opinion on a decision that they regard as one for the British people.

Thus, an element of uncertainty remains about voting intentions, but, significantly, there is a huge amount of uncertainty over what would happen were the UK to vote to leave the EU on June 23.

On this wider issue of the UK economy as a whole, 72% of ABHI respondents thought it would be beneficial for the UK to remain in the EU, while just 3% thought the opposite.

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