Credit: Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Shutterstock.com
The world’s largest biotech gathering, the BIO Convention, has seen the North of England showcase its offer to more than 60 countries - and former Prime Minister David Cameron talk down fears over what Brexit will mean for the sector.
Four of the seven sponsors of the Department for International Trade's UK stand at BIO come from the North; including the Alderley Park campus in Cheshire, and North West EHealth, based at CityLabs in Manchester. The Northern Health Service Alliance and the government's Northern Powerhouse group also feature prominently.
Delivering the keynote address, Mr Cameron told delegates that he would think about the outcome of the EU referendum "every day until I died - not because of the consequences for me, but because of what it means for the country."
Around the question of EU citizens’ right to have employment in the UK, he said: "Don't worry about EU nationals working in your business, their rights will be guaranteed. Don't worry about accessing talent from the EU, some form of online work permit will be available. Spend your time on the exact nature of the trading relationship between UK and EU.”
Mr Cameron suggested that Britain could stay in the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which is responsible for the scientific evaluation and supervision of medicines. He also proposed that the UK could seek an equivalence deal between the EMA and the UK regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
Mr Cameron said he is confident the UK can find a way forward: "If Britain was a small country on the edge of Europe that could be pushed around I would worry a lot. But we are still the sixth biggest economy in the world. We have many strengths and I think we have the ability to negotiate with our neighbours and partners a fair outcome. And that is what I think will happen.”
"I hope we can deliver Brexit in a way where we stay as close as possible to the single market. We were reluctant tenants [in the EU]. We can be good neighbours. That's the goal."
Dr Chris Doherty, managing director of Alderley Park, commented: "It was an impressive performance. There is a feeling within UK life science that David Cameron has always understood the sector and proved to be a good ambassador here on the global stage.
“He has done more than most to put dementia on the global agenda, driving an ambition shared by all G7 nations to find a disease-modifying treatment by 2025. Mr Cameron visited us on the UK stand after the keynote address and was no doubt impressed that, with over 500 registered delegates, the UK has the largest overseas presence of any country at this event."