Newton Emerson: Medicines issue risks confirming unionist suspicions on NI protocol

Reorienting medicine supply chains is not like a supermarket finding new sources of cheese

‘The medicines sea border  legally requires a complete political impossibility.’ File photograph: PA Wire

‘The medicines sea border legally requires a complete political impossibility.’ File photograph: PA Wire

The medicines sea border – which requires separate labelling and testing in Northern Ireland of medicines coming from Britain – is a fascinating subject. The reason is because it legally requires a complete political impossibility – the UK disrupting its internal medical supplies to comply with the EU’s paperwork. Regardless of both sides having agreed to do this, it is simply not going to happen. How political figures respond to the resulting mess is extremely revealing.

The DUP does not give the issue of medicines as prominent a mention as might be expected. Even as the party’s Brexit meltdown becomes utterly desperate and irresponsible, its attacks on the Northern Ireland protocol – which mandates the checks – focus on broad themes of sovereignty and the union, or less serious specific problems with supermarket deliveries and online shopping. It is as if the DUP, knowing many unionists blame it for the protocol, shies away from raising its most provocative problem.

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