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European brief - September 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
  • What's not on the bottle? The labelling of alcoholic beverages in the EU
  • Improving public health via excise duties for tobacco products
  • Possible ban on formaldehyde
  • CETA enters into force


Brexit update

As negotiations continue - the 4th round of negotiations concluded on Thursday 28 September – and recognising the ongoing necessity for key actors on both sides of the negotiating table to be cognisant of our developing positions; chief officers, elected members and staff continue to meet with MPs, UK government officials, MEPs, EU officials and stakeholders from across Europe.

Our European partners, representing all branches of practice, continue to provide invaluable assistance and have written to the EC’s (European Commission) Brexit Taskforce to highlight research, undertaken by the BMA, analysing the crucial role that our members, holding professional qualifications from other EU/EEA member states, play in delivering healthcare across the continent. Indeed, this will be one of the topics discussed during a meeting between the BMA, our European partner and the EC’s Brexit taskforce early next month.

In response to the perceived lack of progress in the negotiations, and ahead of the crucial European Council meeting of 19/20 October, which will decide whether “sufficient progress” has been made to allow negotiations to proceed into discussion of the “future relationship”, the EP (European Parliament) has dampened expectations.

A draft resolution, which will debated and voted upon in early October, states that the EP:

Is of the opinion that in the fourth round of negotiations sufficient progress has not yet been made on citizens´ rights, Ireland and the Northern Ireland, and the settlement of the United Kingdom´s financial obligations; calls on the European Council, unless there is major breakthrough in line with this resolution in all three areas during the fifth negotiation round, to decide at its October meeting to postpone its assessment on whether sufficient progress has been made.

As the withdrawal settlement will require the EP’s approval, the final resolution will provide a useful insight into MEPs’ thinking and will inform our ongoing lobbying to secure an outcome which threatens neither the medical profession nor the patients it serves.

Read the EPs draft resolution

Read additional information about the BMA’s work on this matter


What's not on the bottle? The labelling of alcoholic beverages in the EU

As the alcohol industry develops its response to the EC’s request that it propose a harmonised approach to the provision of consumer information about the ingredients present in alcoholic beverages and the nutritional value of such beverages, the BMA continues to work with European partners to secure the following objectives:

  • The harmonised labelling of alcoholic products to improve significantly consumers’ awareness and understanding of the ingredients and nutritional information, including energy content, of these products.
  • A mandatory requirement for industry producers to comply with the current regulation and to provide the listing of ingredients and nutritional information per 100ml.
  • A mandatory requirement for alcohol products to show unit information, alcohol guidelines, advice on alcohol-free days, a health warning message, and advice not to drink during pregnancy.
  • That the EU should develop its alcohol policies independently of the alcohol industry.

As part of these efforts, the BMA co-hosted an event in the EP on September 28 where politicians, NGOs and industry debated the health benefits provided by the listing of ingredients and nutritional information on alcoholic drinks. The event was attended by the EU Health Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, who echoed our views that consumer awareness is vital to improving health outcomes.

The EC will assess industry’s proposal in March 2018 and, if the self-regulatory measures proposed by the industry are deemed to be unsatisfactory, will launch an impact assessment to review further available options – both regulatory and non-regulatory.

Read highlights from the event

Read the EC's report on exemption


Improving public health via excise duties for tobacco products

The BMA has added its support to the Smoke Free Partnership’s response to a public consultation on the possible revision of the EU Directive defining the product categories, structure and minimum rates for excise duties on manufactured tobacco in the EU.

This position paper details the public health implications of the fiscal treatment of the two main categories of consumption, cigarettes and RYO (roll-your-own) tobacco, though the recommendations may be generalised to the rest of tobacco products.

Read the position paper


Possible ban on formaldehyde

Ahead of the upcoming, planned for early 2018, third revision of the EU Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive, several pan-European medical organisations, which the BMA is a member of, have sent a joint statement to EU officials recommending that any such legislation does not restrict the use of formaldehyde in pathology. Formalin is the only agent available for the preservation of human tissues for the diagnosis of disease and its ban would pose a serious threat to public health.

The EC is currently consulting with social partners and confirming the timetable for a public consultation to which the BMA and European partners will respond.

Read a copy of the statement


CETA Enters Into Force

On 21 September 2017 CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the EU) entered into force provisionally. As such, most of the agreement now applies, although aapplication of the controversial ICS (Investment Court System) will not be included within this provisional application as it 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.

Read further details about CETA


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