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Health Secretary to make case for single market and customs union

Shona Robison says membership would help protect health and social care services from the impact of Brexit.

Health Secretary Shona Robison will make the case for European single market membership in order to “shield” health and social care services from the impact on Brexit when she appears before a Holyrood committee this week.

Ms Robison is due to give evidence to the Health Committee on Tuesday as it continues its inquiry on the impact of leaving the European Union on health in Scotland.

The committee has previously heard from experts on the potential risks to research, clinical trials, and access to medicines and staff.

Speaking ahead her appearance, Ms Robison said: “EU workers make a vital contribution to our health and social care services, filling vacancies in hard-to-recruit specialisms or areas.

“However, evidence from health experts has demonstrated huge risks to workforce recruitment and retention if the free movement of workers and the cross-border recognition of qualifications, education and training are diminished.

“I am clear that the only way to protect patients, our health and social care services, and our research and pharmaceutical industries is to retain our membership of the single market and customs union.”

She added: “This would ensure we continue to benefit from recognition of qualifications and free movement of staff within the EU, the rights of Scottish patients to have treatment in the EU, and access for Scotland to pan-European research, medicines and clinical trials.

“All of that is jeopardised by a lack of clear information from the UK Government.

“Leaving the EU’s regulatory regime for medicines and medical devices could also affect patients, with potential for slower or reduced access to new medicines, equipment or vitally important clinical trials.

“There will also be a negative economic impact on our pharmaceutical and medical devices industries.”

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “We respect the four freedoms of the EU and that is why, as we leave the EU, we are leaving the single market and customs union.

“The Prime Minister has been clear that as we leave the EU we will put in place an immigration system that works for the whole of the UK and continues to welcome those with the skills and expertise we need.

“Our overall aim is to ensure that patients in the whole of the UK and across the EU continue to be able to access the best and most innovative medicines, and be assured that their safety is protected through ongoing cooperation and the strongest regulatory framework.

“We are committed to strengthening the UK’s world-leading science and research base as we leave the EU.”

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