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European brief - February 2017

Read our monthly European brief to get an overview of the key EU legislative and policy developments which impact the medical profession, as well as the work being carried out by the BMA to ensure that those developments align with our members' interests.

 Read the February 2017 European brief

  • Brexit Update
  • European Parliament Approves CETA
  • Protecting Minors from the Marketing of Alcohol and Unhealthy Food & Drinks
  • No Changes to the European Working Time Directive
  • Tackling Childhood Obesity
  • Tackling Cancer in the EU



Brexit update

As we approach the expected (due by the end of March) invocation of Article 50 by the UK government and the start of negotiations, the BMA continues to work to secure an outcome which threatens neither the medical profession nor the patients it serves.

On this basis, and in order to ensure that the BMA’s views are recognised by the key actors on both sides of the negotiating table, chief officers, elected members and staff continue to meet with MPs, UK government officials, MEPs, EU officials and stakeholders from across Europe. This includes a meeting between Dr Mark Porter, BMA Council Chair, and David Jones MP, Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union.

We have also written to the re-elected Chair of the EP’s (European Parliament) internal market committee to request her support in ensuring that Brexit does not threaten the benefits accrued to the medical profession via the EU’s policy of free movement and its mutual recognition of professional qualifications. Evidence has also been submitted to the Lords Select Committee enquiry on “Brexit and the Labour Market.”

Our European partners continue to support these efforts and joined the BMA in a meeting with the EC’s (European Commission) Brexit Task Force.
Further details about our work with European partners to secure BMA interests is available via the first link below with employment/immigration advice for EU nationals working in the NHS available at the second

BMA News article: Brexit must not threaten Europe's health

Read our immigration advice for EU nationals working in the NHS



European Parliament Approves CETA

MEPs in the EP’s plenary (full session) have approved – by 408 votes to 254, with 33 abstentions – CETA (The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement).

Provisional application of CETA could begin from April 2017 but will not include application of the controversial ICS (Investment Court System) as this will only be implemented once all member states conclude their national ratification procedures.

The application of CETA and other EU FTAs (free trade agreements), like the now moribund TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), in the UK, will, of course, be dependent upon the timing of their implementation relative to the UK’s departure from the EU and the terms of its withdrawal agreement.

Recognising the fluidity of the issues, we will continue to monitor the development/implementation of such FTAs and intervene where possible to ensure that they do not adversely impact upon the NHS. 

Find out more about the vote



Protecting minors from the marketing of alcohol and unhealthy food and drinks

As part of the EP’s ongoing scrutiny of proposed changes to the existing EU Directive on Audio-visual Media Services, its ENVI (Environment, Public Health and Food Safety) committee has called for restrictions on alcohol and food/soft drinks high in fat, sugar and salt during peak viewing times by children's audiences.

Less encouragingly though, it rejected proposals to ban alcohol from product placement and sponsorship, as well as plans to use the WHO’s nutrient profile as a reference.

As the ENVI opinion will inform debate on the upcoming (delayed until April 2017) report by the lead committee - CULT (Education and Culture), we will be factoring its outcomes into our lobbying of MEPs.

In addition, and as trilogue negotiations between the EU institutions continue in parallel, we will be working with European partners to ensure that all decision makers are aware of the impact that their work will have on the health of Europe’s children.

Read ENVI opinion

Read the draft report



No changes to the European working time directive

Following a review process, which began in 2014 and to which the BMA contributed significantly – consultation responses at EU and UK level, meetings with EC officials and MEPs – the EC has finally confirmed that it proposes to “retain the Directive un-amended while ensuring both legal clarity and its sound application.”

It has advised that it will now focus on the implementation of the current law and produce an Interpretative Communication to support this work. The summary document from the EC’s Department for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion is available upon request.

Following the UK’s formal exit (expected to take place in 2019) from the EU, the UK government will be able to keep, amend or repeal the Working Time Regulations - the EWTD as implemented into UK law.

The BMA is satisfied with the current arrangements, as we believe it protects doctors from the dangers of overwork whilst protecting patients from overtired doctors, and would oppose any attempts to dilute this vital health and safety legislation.



Tackling childhood obesity

A review of the EU Action Plan on Childhood Obesity 2014-2020 will be presented at the informal health ministers’ meeting in Malta on 19-20 March. This will benchmark progress made towards the Action Plan’s 2020 target of halting the rise in childhood obesity in the EU and help identify good practices across member states.

The Maltese EU Presidency is expected to present a draft document for negotiation that will identify actions aiming to prevent the rise in childhood obesity. In addition, it also aims to develop guiding principles on voluntary food public procurement, in particular for school meals. The EU Action Plan, which can be read via the link below, has 8 areas of action:

  • Support a healthy start in life
  • Promote healthier environments, especially in schools and pre-schools
  • Make the healthy option the easier option
  • Restrict marketing and advertising to children
  • Inform and empower families
  • Encourage physical activity
  • Monitor and evaluate
  • Increase research

Read the EU action plan on obesity



Tackling cancer in the EU

Speaking at the launch of a report on cancer screening, the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, praised national governments for their efforts in developing screening programmes for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer.

The report details the number of population-based programmes operating in EU member states and also includes a set of essential indicators to document the quality of screening.

In addition, and in order to assist member states with cancer screening, the EC has produced European guidelines for quality assurance in cervical cancer screening, European guidelines for quality assurance in breast cancer screening and diagnosis and European guidelines for quality assurance in colorectal cancer screening and diagnosis.

Read the report

Read the European commissioner's publications:

Quality and assurance in cervical cancer screening
Quality and assurance in breast cancer screening and diagnosis

Quality and assurance in colo-rectal screening and diagnosis


For further information on any of these news items, please email Paul Laffin.