Stephen Kinnock: Many thanks to our witnesses for really useful and informative presentations. I wanted to ask a couple of questions about the role of various EU institutions in this, focusing specifically on the agencies and then on the European Court of Justice. Regarding the agencies, could all three of you give an assessment of the impact of the UK leaving the EU agency? As far as I can see, for the purposes of this conversation, the three key agencies would be EASA, the ECHA and the EMA. They will obviously play a very important role in shaping directives, standards and regulations going forward. Under any scenario, the UK is clearly not going to be in those agencies, and I am assuming will not have observer status either. Can you just give an assessment of what you think the impact of the UK leaving those agencies will be?
Neil Hollis: HSE has an excellent reputation for chemicals management. It will be sorely missed from the European Chemicals Agency, not only by UK industry but by the chemicals sector across Europe. It has a reputation for making its decisions on science and evidence rather than political agenda. As I mentioned earlier, the REACH data provision is based on volume, and I do have concerns that when the UK’s REACH scheme is totally independent of the European agency, the level of information that the HSE will own or hold will be considerably smaller than what is available at the European Chemicals Agency. This is why I believe the annex within the free trade agreement is highly important, not only for a data-sharing mechanism but to allow the respective agencies—the European Chemicals Agency and the HSE—to still have a communication channel to share best practice and have regular discussions on the development of chemicals management.
Stephen Kinnock: Do you think that our absence from the agency will turn us into a rule-taker rather than a rule-maker?
Neil Hollis: I do not know. If there is no deal, we will essentially be totally independent. It may be that, in order to maintain some alignment within the UK industry, we will end up copying decisions that are made in the UK. I believe it is the objective of the regulatory authority to take the evidence that it holds in the UK and make its decisions independently.
Paul Everitt: The European Aviation Safety Agency will sadly miss both the UK input it gets directly from the UK Civil Aviation Authority and the direct input it gets from UK businesses. The UK is one of the major aerospace economies in the world, particularly in Europe, and the expertise and input that it will no longer be getting first-hand will clearly have an impact on its own capability. Having a separate regulatory authority in the UK will also mean that it, too, faces a higher degree of complexity than is ideal.
Paul Everitt: On being a rule-taker, it is highly likely that we will have to accept a high degree of the decisions made by the European Aviation Safety Agency. The issue is about how much of an influence a separate organisation, the CAA, has in its ultimate decisions.
Stephen Kinnock: If you are not at the table when the decisions are being made, because by definition you are not in the room—you are not in the agency—that, of course, massively limits your ability to influence and shape the discussion.
Paul Everitt: Yes.
Dr Torbett: The first part of the answer is very similar to what you have heard from Paul and Neil. The MHRA is a very highly respected regulator and used to perform a significant share of those assessments that would go through the EMA, which worked as a network of national agencies. In that respect they will certainly be missed.
To go further and talk about the implications for leaving, it depends; that is the bottom line. It depends on whether we get that mutual recognition agreement and it depends on whether or not the approach to defining a role and a vision for the MHRA for the future is realistic and at a realistic level of cost, if I can put it that way.
As I said before, the stringent, top-quality regulators of the world in medicines are very important for us. We absolutely support high regulatory standards and we want to make sure that the MHRA is part of that international global community of regulators. Given the size of the UK, it is important to be realistic about where the MHRA can potentially be a de facto rule-maker, if I can put it that way, by innovating and doing new things. It is going to be a little bit of a mixed picture between areas where we are likely to be very aligned with the EU and areas where, if we get it right, the MHRA could still be at the cutting edge. If we can achieve that, we would like to support it.
Stephen Kinnock: My final question is on the role of the European Court of Justice. In areas where there is close alignment and we are, in effect, copying the standards, directives and regulations that are generated from Brussels, how do you see dispute resolution working in that context? Would it, in effect, end up being the European Court of Justice that acts as the referee in these situations?
Paul Everitt: From an aerospace point of view, in aviation safety there has never been an occasion where any dispute resolution mechanism was required. We are not anticipating that it would be in any new arrangements either.
Dr Torbett: Similarly, from our perspective, moving away from the European Court of Justice has not been one of the big issues that our members have come forward with as a complicating factor. We think that that is solvable by being a bit creative about who makes the final decision within regulation. If there is any point of detail on that that we could usefully follow up with you afterwards, I would be happy to do so.
Neil Hollis: In the chemical industry, we have always believed remaining within the REACH and the European frameworks would be beneficial for the businesses, and the positives would outweigh the negatives.