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European brief - November 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.

  • Brexit update
  • Minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Scotland
  • Controversial herbicide reapproved for use
  • Reducing the dietary intake of trans fatty acids
  • Labelling of alcoholic beverages


Brexit update

With negotiations ongoing, and recognising the ongoing necessity for key actors on both sides of the negotiating table to be cognisant of our developing positions, we continue to meet with MEPs, EU officials and stakeholders from across Europe.

Indeed, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA Chair of Council, led a delegation to Brussels on 24 November to meet with representatives from over 30 national medical associations from across Europe. In addition to covering pan-European issues of concern like anti-microbial resistance and vaccination, Dr Nagpaul presented our manifesto, Healthcare first – a Brexit blueprint for Europe which sets out what the BMA believes needs to be achieved during the Brexit negotiations and beyond, so that doctors can continue to deliver the high-quality health services patients deserve.

In addition, our EU Public Affairs Manager, Paul Laffin, presented the association's views to a hearing of the EP's (European Parliament) ENVI (Environment, Public Health and Food Safety) committee in Brussels on 28 November.

Speaking alongside a representative from the pharmaceutical industry, Mr Laffin highlighted the impact that Brexit would have upon the whole of the European medical profession and the patients they serve. Addressing MEPs directly, he then concluded by advising them that "while Brexit will fundamentally alter both the UK and the EU, it must not be permitted to threaten Europe's health" and that "'this committee, this institution and you as individuals can go some way to ensuring that it doesn't."

The hearing can be viewed in full via the first link below, with further information about the EP hearing available via the second and our recently published manifesto Healthcare first - a Brexit blueprint for Europe
accessible via the last link:

Watch Paul's presentation in the ENVI committee meeting video

Download Paul's presentation

Read: Healthcare first - a Brexit blueprint for Europe


Minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Scotland

The UK Supreme Court in London rejected, on 15 November 2017, the appeal from the SWA (Scotch Whiskey Association), spiritsEUROPE and CEEV (Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins); and ruled that MUP (Minimum Unit Pricing of alcohol) does not breach EU law.

This decision ends the five-year legal battle with the alcohol industry, which included a referral to the ECJ (European Court of Justice).

The Scottish Government has subsequently announced that the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 – accessible via the link below - which sets a minimum unit price of 50 pence per unit for alcohol, will come into force on 1 May 2018.

The BMA was actively involved in securing this outcome, working with SHAAP (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems) and campaigning at both national and European level, and will continue to support efforts to secure the introduction of MUP across the rest of the United Kingdom.

Download the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 (PDF)


Controversial herbicide reapproved for use controversial weed-killer

Following months of political wrangling and intensive lobbying by both industry and environmental groups, a qualified majority – 18 in favour, nine against and one abstention - of member states voted in favour of the EC's (European Commission) proposal for a five-year re-approval for the world's most commonly used weed killer, glyphosate.

After more than two years of political debate over whether glyphosate causes cancer, two EU agencies – EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) and ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) concluded that there was no evidence of links between glyphosate and cancer.

Read an overview of the EC's position and related background information


Reducing the dietary intake of trans fatty acids

Following the BMA's contribution (March 2017) to an external study, commissioned by the EC on the potential impacts of actions that could be taken to reduce the dietary intake of TFA (Trans Fatty Acids) in the EU, the EC has launched a public consultation on the same matter.

The consultation (accessible via the link below) is a part of the ongoing EC's Impact Assessment on a possible EU initiative to limit industrial trans fats content in food through self-regulation or through a legally-binding measure. Such legislation might also introduce mandatory labelling of the trans fats content of foods on food labels or prohibit the use of partly hydrogenated oils, which are the main source of industrial trans fats, in foods manufacturing/preparation through self-regulation or through a legally-binding measure.

The BMA is currently finalising its response to advise that self-regulatory approaches have been generally shown to have little impact, or to change things in less beneficial way than regulatory approaches.

View the consultation


Labelling of alcoholic beverages

Draft conclusions, due for adoption in early December, from EU health ministers have increased the pressure on the EC to propose a regulatory approach on alcohol labelling by the end of 2019, should the alcohol industry fail to deliver a satisfactory self-regulatory proposal by March 2018.

The conclusions (available via the link below) also repeat calls to the EC to develop a new strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm, as the EC has so far refused to renew a strategy that expired in 2013, arguing that it was up to EU countries to tackle alcohol related harm.

Back in October, Slovenia's state secretary for health, criticised the EC's decision to ask the industry to come up with its own proposal within 12 months, saying 'alcoholic beverage labelling based on self-regulation won't work.'

Previously (September 2017), and as part of our pan-European campaign to secure the aforementioned regulatory approach, the BMA co-hosted an event in the EP to highlight the health benefits of the mandatory listing of ingredients and nutritional information per 100ml and promote our belief that the EU should develop its alcohol policies independently of the alcohol industry. The event was attended by politicians, NGOs and industry representatives as well as the EU Health Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, who emphasised the view that consumer awareness is vital to improving health outcomes.

Download the draft conclusions (PDF)


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