Posts Tagged ‘referendum’

Amsterdam has a drugs problem

AMSTERDAM — The Netherlands wants to transform the south Amsterdam district where the EU’s drugs agency will be housed into a bustling hub for Europe’s pharmaceutical companies.

But it would help if the minister overseeing the agency’s relocation would keep quiet.

After the city was picked as the new home of the European Medicines Agency following the Brexit referendum, Dutch officials set out to bring not only the agency’s employees across the Channel but also some of the near 2,000 companies that have connections to the agency in London.

Yet while the government’s economy ministry continues its push to attract British companies, Medical Care Minister Bruno Bruins has loudly proclaimed his intention to slash drug prices and reduce valuable exclusivity periods, hitting pharma’s bottom line.

That’s making pharma and biotech companies wary.

Dutch Medical Care Minister Bruno Bruins greets Prime Minister Mark Rutte on October 24, 2017 in The Hague | Remko De Waal/AFP via Getty Images

“We’re getting, as an industry, contradicting signals when it comes to the importance of innovation,” Elizabeth Kuiper, public affairs executive director at the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, told Dutch officials at a meeting hosted by FTI Consulting and attended by drug representatives in Brussels this month.

“On the one hand, you have all these [positive] actions … Whereas from the political perspective, all we hear as companies and as an industry is that actually, you’re not so much pro-innovation,” she told the country’s representatives.

Bruins, a member of Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), in April suggested halving the market exclusivity period for drugs for rare diseases from 10 years to five, after years of efforts by former VVD Health Minister Edith Schippers to mobilize EU countries to take action on drug prices.

Kuiper referenced a move by Dutch pharmacists to bypass drug companies’ products and make their own medicines, and said that Bruins has said that “it’s super easy to make a pill.”

“I know sometimes publicity about what the Netherlands are saying, and sometimes they are very vocal, is negative” — Gerard Schouw, general manager at the Dutch Pharma Trade Association

“I even got questions from my own family about it, ‘Well is that actually right?’” Kuiper said. “So for patients, that’s very threatening.”

Industry reps in the Netherlands are working hard to reassure companies.

“What you see is a difference between what is the spoken word of some persons, and what’s written in policy documents,” said Gerard Schouw, general manager at the Dutch Pharma Trade Association. He added that Amsterdam was awarded the EMA relatively recently, and it will take some time to “create a positive atmosphere around medicines for all people who are governing.”

A spokesperson for Bruins, asked to comment on the fact that the minister’s rhetoric was making companies hesitant, said: “The fact that EMA is now in Amsterdam provides a positive incentive for companies to come to the Netherlands and to perform research over here. Health care — and the access to innovative medicines — however needs to remain affordable.”

Jostling for space

The nation’s plans to attract pharmaceutical companies were laid out in a letter from Mona Keijzer, the Dutch government’s state secretary for economic affairs and climate policy, to the president of the Dutch parliament in February. She wrote that the EMA’s move is “a huge opportunity for the Netherlands to develop itself into an international hub” for the life sciences and health industries.

The government-backed Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency subsequently set up the “Invest in Holland” network including a life and health sciences team focused on attracting companies in the U.K., the U.S. and Asia to work alongside the EMA.

Amsterdam officials hope to capitalize on the relocation of the European Medicines Agency | Aurore Belot/AFP via Getty Images

The country is also developing an action plan “to find out how good is the business climate in the Netherlands,” said Janneke Timmerman, program director for the Dutch economy ministry, which is likely to be released in the fall or end of the year.

Timmerman said the government will appoint an ambassador specifically tasked with bringing this plan to life. It has made a promotional video and sent books to its embassies around the world.

Yet it’s Bruins’ comments, rather than this pro-pharma push, that have captured headlines.

“I know sometimes publicity about what the Netherlands are saying, and sometimes they are very vocal, is negative,” said Schouw. “Sometimes the focus is too much on negative things.”

Holding up the front page of that morning’s de Volkskrant paper about a new “pay for performance” drug-pricing experiment, Schouw said: “[The article] is also about medicines, but it is very positive. And this is an example of how we can combine the discussion about high prices of medicines with new innovations and working together with pharmaceutical companies, insurance and doctors.”

Amsterdam’s Deputy Mayor Udo Kock said the fact that “the Netherlands is at the forefront of thinking about and developing innovations in these pricing policies” could be for companies “a reason to come … because then they establish themselves in a country that is at the forefront of developing these new policies.”

“From a business perspective, as you say, there might be a difference in perception locally and internationally” — Elizabeth Kuiper, public affairs executive director at the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations

Another Dutch official commented that drug pricing is an issue that every country is tackling — the Dutch are just more vocal with their message.

The result is that it’s being heard loud and clear.

“From a business perspective, as you say, there might be a difference in perception locally and internationally,” EFPIA’s Kuiper said. “But I mean, our heads of Europe and our CEOs, of course, read newspapers and get translations about what’s happening.”

Wary of going Dutch

Dutch officials insist there is no tension between the nation’s health ministry, whose job it is to negotiate drug prices with pharma companies, and the economy ministry, which is playing a key role in attracting them to the country.

They point to Keijzer’s letter which was written by both the health and economy ministries.

“I think everybody in my ministry is pro-innovation, also the ministry of health is pro-innovation,” the economy ministry’s Timmerman said. “I think the cost of innovation — that’s what the debate is about. There are different views, and therefore it’s very important that we work closely together in the chances coming up around the EMA.”

“By definition it’s irrelevant where we operate in Europe” — EMA Executive Director Guido Rasi

Timmerman stressed both ministries are playing active roles in creating the nation’s action plan.

Kock said the government is talking actively to 30 life and health sciences companies about moving, not just from London but worldwide. He also said the U.S.’s Food and Drug Administration is moving its European headquarters from London to Amsterdam.

Dupont kicked off 2019 by opening its European headquarters in Leiden, and Gilead leased a large facility in Hoofddorp, near Amsterdam’s airport, to produce its CAR-T therapy Yescarta. But those were planned before the EMA moved.

With the agency only relocated in March, Koen Daamen, senior adviser of the life sciences and health team at the foreign investment agency, said attracting EMA’s employees was the “first stage” for the Netherlands, and “I think that is being done very well.” As of June 1, the EMA reported 464 of 776 staff members are working in the city, with 312 still working remotely. It’s pulling out all the stops to retain employees including planning 657 parking spaces for bikes at the new location, embracing the Dutch city’s spirit.

At a briefing this month at the temporary headquarters in the west of the city, EMA Executive Director Guido Rasi said whether or not companies’ move won’t affect the agency. “By definition it’s irrelevant where we operate in Europe,” he said.

But Jean-Paul Decaestecker, from the Council of the EU’s task force on the U.K., told the event in Brussels that once the U.K. leaves the EU, the country will no longer be involved in determining which drugs are approved for sale in Europe.

He stressed to pharma and biotech industries that it is “in their hands” to ensure that “a thriving pharma ecosystem grows around the EMA.”

Marie-Hélène Fandel, head of government affairs in European markets for U.S. biopharmaceutical company Amgen, said at the event that the “next test for the investors will be to what extent Europe will change its IP incentives regime.”

“And when that happens, boardrooms will be looking at how governments are positioned across Europe, what are they asking for,” she said. “Are they willing to protect the IP incentive regime that benefits our industry … or are we looking at governments that fundamentally want to change the IP incentives regime?”

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service: Pro Health Care. From drug pricing, EMA, vaccines, pharma and more, our specialized journalists keep you on top of the topics driving the health care policy agenda. Email [email protected] for a complimentary trial.

Leo Varadkar: No Brexit transition without a deal

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar delivered a blow to Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson Thursday as he insisted the U.K. will not be granted a Brexit transition period if it leaves the EU without a deal.

Johnson, who is the favorite to clinch the Tory crown and become the next British prime minister next month, argued during a televised TV debate on Tuesday that Brussels would grant a transition to smooth the U.K. departure from the bloc, even after a no-deal Brexit.

He has also put renegotiating the controversial Northern Irish backstop arrangements at the heart of his campaign to win the backing of Conservative Party MPs and members.

But arriving at the European Council summit in Brussels, Varadkar said neither proposition is possible. “There is no Withdrawal Agreement without a backstop and there is no implementation period without a Withdrawal Agreement,” said Varadkar, using the alternative terminology for a transition period.

Varakdar’s comments echo those of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who also said this morning there could be no transition without the Withdrawal Agreement, which Brussels has insisted will not be reopened.

Varakdar also made clear that Dublin would not be willing to negotiate bilaterally to avoid the backstop, insisting “European unity” would be maintained if talks continue on the so-called Political Declaration — which outlines the future relationship between the U.K. and EU.

The proposal was put forward by British Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who was knocked out of the Conservative leadership contest Thursday afternoon.

Varadkar said: “Negotiations can only happen between the U.K. and EU. We are not going to allow negotiations to move to an intergovernmental level in any way.”

Elsewhere, Varadkar insisted there could be no further extension to the current Brexit deadline of October 31 — unless it is for a snap general election to shake up the deadlocked parliamentary arithmetic in Britain, or even a fresh EU referendum.

Johnson has insisted he will take the U.K. out of the EU by the end of October, deal or no deal. But the two remaining candidates in the race — Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt — have said they would prefer an extension to the negotiations if a deal might be clinched soon after the deadline.

But in a blow to their hopes, Varakdar said there is “very much a strong view across the EU that there shouldn’t be any more extensions.”

He added: “While I have endless patience, some of my colleagues have lost patience, quite frankly, with the U.K., and there is enormous hostility to any further extension.

“So I think an extension could only happen if it were to facilitate something like a general election in the U.K. or perhaps even something like a second referendum if they decided to have one.”

“What won’t be entertained is an extension for further negotiations or further indicative votes. The time for that has long since passed,” he said.

This time, Boris Johnson is serious

LONDON — This time, it’s Boris Johnson’s race to lose.

With MPs due to vote in the first round of the Conservative leadership contest on Thursday morning, the divisive, larger-than-life former foreign secretary and figurehead of the Brexit campaign appears to be way out in front.

Sooner than many anticipated, Johnson has been able to shake off doubts that he lacks the backing of enough MPs to make it through to the runoff ballot of Tory Party members — whose enthusiasm for the Vote Leave figurehead has never been in doubt.

It is a notable turnaround.

Less than three years ago, Johnson’s previous bid to become prime minister in the wake David Cameron’s resignation crashed and burned spectacularly before MPs even began voting.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the ConservativeHome website listed 79 MPs publicly backing Johnson.

“The difference,” said one former Cabinet minister backing Johnson, “is that this time he’s taking it seriously. It’s all been planned for months.”

Whereas in 2016 Johnson alienated his electorate — Tory MPs — with what was regarded as an arrogant and born-to-rule attitude, this time he dedicated the opening weeks of the campaign solely to those same MPs.

He has made time for lengthy meetings, often in small groups, who are hearing a simple message. His pitch is that the Conservatives must deliver Brexit to survive, and that he is a vote-winner. The former Leave campaign frontman argues that he is the only would-be leader capable of beating Labour chief Jeremy Corbyn, while also stemming the flow of Tory votes to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

So far it is working. But with parliament already seeking to block a no-deal Brexit, and the EU pledging no renegotiation of Theresa May’s Brexit deal, Johnson is yet to answer the key question: Confronted with those two roadblocks as prime minister, what would he do?

Campaign discipline

In 2016, when Cameron resigned immediately after the surprise referendum result, Johnson had little time to prepare a pitch, or put a team together.

Branded badges are displayed as Boris Johnson launches his bid to become the leader of the Conservative Party | Neil Hall/EPA-EFE

His campaign quickly fell apart when his ally, the current Environment Secretary Michael Gove, abandoned him to stand himself. This time, Johnson has assembled a disciplined team with Cabinet experience, and stuck, by and large, to a strictly orchestrated script.

Gavin Williamson, the former defense secretary and one-time chief whip, is co-chairing the campaign alongside former London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith. Williamson’s experience in the whip’s office, in particular, has proven invaluable at corralling support across the Tory backbenches.

A spectrum of MPs have publicly backed Johnson, from diehard Brexiteers like Steve Baker, who (unlike Johnson) never voted for May’s deal, to former Remain-backing rising stars of May’s government like Solicitor General Lucy Frazer and junior Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden.

The focus on ensuring Tory MPs — who were infuriated by May’s bunker mentality and a perceived over-reliance on officials — feel involved was evident at Johnson’s formal campaign launch in London on Wednesday morning. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, unveiled as Johnson’s latest high-profile supporter and delivering the warm-up speech, backed him to “trust, delegate to, inform, and involve ministerial and parliamentary colleagues at every stage.”

“God knows how different that would be,” muttered one MP in the audience.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the ConservativeHome website, influential among party members, listed 79 MPs publicly backing Johnson, well ahead of his nearest rivals Jeremy Hunt on 37 and Michael Gove on 34.

Boris Johnson speaks during the launch of his bid to become the leader of the Conservative Party | Neil Hall/EPA-EFE

Leading Johnson’s media operation is the experienced former journalist Lee Cain, who previously worked for the Vote Leave campaign and for leadership rival Gove. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s former media adviser Richard Holden and former Conservative central office press officer Rosie Bate-Williams are also on the team.

Lynton Crosby, the Australian political strategist who helped mastermind Johnson’s two successful London mayoral campaigns in 2008 and 2012, is not formally working for the campaign team but speaks to the candidate daily, according to one campaign official. The former MP James Wharton is campaign coordinator.

Submarine strategy

The former foreign secretary has nonetheless attracted criticism. He has been taunted by rivals and media organizations for avoiding scrutiny. While his team argue that as the frontrunner, there is little to gain and much to lose from regular TV and radio interviews, MPs — even those backing him — are more cutting. The less airtime Johnson has, they quip, the less likely he is to deliver a trademark gaffe that could derail the campaign entirely.

Nevertheless, some have noted that he is showing more discipline, something attributed to the campaign team and to Johnson’s partner, the environmental campaigner and former Conservative director of communications Carrie Symonds.

“Did you see there were not nearly so many of the rhetorical flourishes?” noted one MP emerging from the campaign launch. “He played a straight bat,” said another.

Nonetheless Johnson did defend his colorful rhetorical style — including likening May’s Brexit deal to a “suicide vest” — from accusations that it was offensive. He said he would continue to “speak directly” to voters.

Boris Johnson departs his home in London | Andy Rain/EPA-EFE

He also successfully dodged a question about a previous admission in GQ magazine that he had used cocaine when he was younger. That issue may yet land uncomfortably later in the race, when Johnson is subjected to more forensic scrutiny.

Lucy Thomas, an ex-BBC journalist now with communications firm Edelman, said that launch had shown a “well-oiled machine” behind Johnson. “The body language, the demeanor, all will have been rehearsed to death. Keeping him locked away until the moment at which they’re ready, in a very controlled way, is working for them,” she said.

(A managing director at Thomas’s firm, Will Walden, previously advised Johnson, but Thomas — a former deputy director for the Remain campaign that was a rival to Johnson’s Leave campaign — said she was commenting as an independent communications specialist.)

The launch was not without its unsavory moments, however. Journalists from both the BBC and Sky News faced a barrage of noise from Johnson supporters for challenging their candidate on his record and past comments about Muslim women wearing the burqa. Johnson’s rivals picked up on the moment, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid telling one of the journalists, Sky’s Beth Rigby, at his own launch later on Wednesday: “You shouldn’t worry about anybody booing you at this event, for just doing your job.”

The risk for Johnson in the weeks ahead from a campaign perspective, Thomas said, are “unvarnished moments” like this.

“It’s difficult to remain on message for the entire time when your record and the details really matter,” she said. “He will have practiced every single question under the sun. He will be aware of what is coming for him.”

What’s the plan?

And while the campaigning may be slick, the plan for what comes after remains unclear.

Asked at the launch what he would do if the EU refuses to renegotiate and parliament blockes a no-deal exit, Johnson offered no clear route map.

“I think it will be very difficult in the end for colleagues in parliament to obstruct the will of the people and simply to block Brexit … If we now block it, collectively as parliamentarians, we will reap the whirlwind and we will face mortal retribution from the electorate,” he said.

Boris Johnson is greeted by his father Stanley and bother Jo after launching his bid to become the leader of the Conservative Party | Neil Hall/EPA-EFE

Despite a defeat Wednesday in their attempt to block no deal in parliament, the Labour Party have vowed to try again. With the Brexit deadline looming, they will have a greater chance of succeeding.

Meanwhile, Johnson also predicted “enthusiasm” in Brussels for a new prime minister “with a new mandate, a new earnestness and new determination to get things done.”

That assessment, however, does not chime with EU leaders’ repeated assertion that regardless of the individual in No. 10, May’s Withdrawal Agreement is not up for renegotiation. Speaking at a POLITICO event Tuesday, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reiterated that the deal agreed in November is not just a pact between himself and May. “It has to be respected by whoever is the next British prime minister,” he said.

Johnson may be on course to win, but if he does make it into No. 10 Downing Street, how he plans to break the Brexit deadlock remains an unanswered question.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium Brexit service for professionals: Brexit Pro. To test our our expert policy coverage of the implications and next steps per industry, email [email protected] for a complimentary trial.

Powered by WordPress | Designed by: index backlink | Thanks to insanity workout, car insurance and cyber security