This week European Commission President JC Juncker appointed Mr. Michel Barnier as the Commission negotiator for BREXIT. This appointment has been seen as a hardening of positions, especially by the banking sector in the UK. Indeed, Mr. Barnier, who between 2010-14 was the European Commission for Internal Market and Services, has pushed for tighter financial regulations following the 2008 market crash. He is considered to be hostile to the “Anglo-Saxon” free market model of capitalism and a tough negotiator.
During his second term as a European Commissioner (2010-14) Mr Barnier led on a series of measures aimed at strengthening the single market. He led the “single market strategy” which aimed to boost the economy and to make it more adaptable to adapt to new ideas and business models. Mr Barnier’s objective was to create a deeper and fairer single market in which more opportunities exist for businesses and professionals.
EPC and MDR
One of the outputs of Mr. Barnier has been the European Professional Card. It’s aim is to facilitate the movement of professionals across the EU in order to boost the economy and to match professional with jobs across the continent. About mobility has always been very high on Mr. Barnier’s agenda and he fought hard to remove barriers to freedom of establishment. For instance, the current revision on the fitness of professional regulation is one of his pet projects and the revision of the professional qualifications directive was done under his stewardship.
Similarly, even though the revision of the Medical Devices Regulation pre-dates Mr. Barnier’s tenure as Commissioner, he was instrumental in drafting the legislation which was recently adopted. Under him a new proposals were published in 2012 and negotiated in the following years. The aim of the proposals was to ensure a consistently high level of health and safety protection for EU citizens using these products and the free and fair trade of the products throughout the EU.
Significance for the health sector
By all accounts and evidence, Mr. Barnier is a staunch defender of the European Single Market. As a negotiator for BREXIT he will be seen as a barrier for the British desire to keep maximum access to the single market while restricting the freedom of establishment of European professionals. Mr. Barnier was categorical; he has insisted that Britain will have to accept freedom of movement – “without exception or nuance” if it wants to retain access to the single market. He will not want to dilute all the work he has done to solidify and consolidate the EU single market by offering a deal to an “out” UK.
It is, of course, impossible to predict the outcome of the negotiations, but one thing is clear, the message sent to the UK by this appointment can be translated as “if you want to sell your medical devices to the EU you’ll have to allow EU health professionals to work freely in your country”.