15th December 2019
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

‘No deal’ Brexit could mean no guarantee of medicines

The head of NHS Shetland has said that he cannot guarantee isles’ medicine supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

That was the answer health chief Ralph Roberts gave to a question from councillor Allison Duncan at Wednesday afternoon’s meeting of the integration joint board.

Mr Duncan had pointed to concerns raised nationally around the supply of medicines such as insulin.

“Are we in a serious position with supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit?” Mr Duncan asked.

Mr Roberts said: “The blunt answer to your question… [is] I can’t give you that assurance and I don’t think any health system in the country could give you that assurance.”

Director of health and social care Simon Bokor-Ingram had earlier said that governments in London and Edinburgh were preparing “resilience plans”.

“Everything’s being done to ensure that the right medicines get through”, he said.


  1. Ian Tinkler

    What a load of nonsense. The SNP has failed to guarantee Scotland and the Isles’ medicine for years. Here we have an SNP sycophant jumping on “Scaremonger Brexit” at full throttle. Just a point of information, the UK exports far more pharmaceuticals than it ever needs to import. Ralph Roberts has failed to get adequate numbers of doctors, dentists and nurses to Shetland for years now. He has overseen the dismal failure of the NHS in Shetland for years now! The closing of wards at GBH, patient travel in turmoil, ambulance services dismal, staff morale devastated, no GPs, too many locums and never has Ralph has once criticised the Scottish government for underfunding our local health services. (Incidentally, no NHS employee will ever criticise Shetland Health Board. They all are legally gagged and forced to sign binding gagging clauses before employment!!)

    • Graham Fleming

      Point of information, 14% of diabetics out of 3.2 million victims use insulin in the United Kingdom virtually none of that is produced locally, nearly 100% is IMPORTED.

      • ian tinkler

        Just to put minds at rest and to counter the scaremongers and frightening disinformation so loved by disingenuous remainers. There is no risk whatsoever of insulin supplies to the UK being compromised by a no deal Brexit. Our usual supplies have made the following statement, ” that they don’t expect significant problems with supply in the event of a no-deal Brexit”, which is good to know. Further to that, once outside the EU and its closed protected markets, the UK will be able to source supplies worldwide. That will ensure a further supply most probably at a reduced cost. Insulin in the USA can be bought over the counter at most pharmacies. It is amazing what can be done in a truly free market without the EU red tape boys and protectionism. https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-are-insulin-supplies-really-at-risk-from-a-no-deal-brexit

      • ian tinkler

        In addition to my previous. If there is a full Brexit the UK will be free to purchase pharmaceuticals worldwide. Free of the restricted protectionism of the EU, not only will availability increase but also so will competition. Just a point of interest, Insulin purchased from India is one third the cost of the EU equivalent!!!! No doubt that would be beyond the comprehension and abilities of our red tape boys with their “resilience plans!!!!”

      • Graham Fleming

        All the figures i have looked at show the U.S.A accounts for halve world use of insulin and is about five times more costly than Germany. Figures of $1251 for U.S and $532 for U.K per annum per patient would suggest out of the Euromarket we are heading for a right fleecing, with the Westminster infighting what are they bothered away from their punch and Judy show,about it.

  2. John Tulloch

    From the article: “Director of health and social care Simon Bokor-Ingram had earlier said that governments in London and Edinburgh were preparing “resilience plans”.

    “Governments in London and Edinburgh” have had nearly three years to “prepare resilience plans”. They should be held accountable for any failures in the supply of medicines.

    There is no excuse. If security of local supply is in doubt then NHS Shetland chairman Gary Robinson should be banging on the doors of his SNP bosses in Edinburgh to ensure there are no shortages.

    • Brian Smith

      Until Tulloch-Tinkler commented, I had no idea that Ralph Roberts and Simon Bokor-Ingram were negotiating Brexit with the EU.

    • Ian Tinkler

      There we go, Graham. As I said Worldwide choice, the USA would not be my choice for Insulin. India or Egypt would appear a good option. One twentieth the cost of the US. Could you translate your comment, please, “with the Westminster infighting what are they bothered away from their punch and Judy show,about it.” I never studied gibberish at school.

  3. Mr ian Tinkler

    You had no idea, Brian Smith! Nothing unusual there then!

  4. Stuart Hannay

    Well, from the comments I see regularly in this newspaper, I don’t know why the SNP ever led us kicking and screaming into this disastrous Brexit referendum. And why on earth did the people of Scotland ever endorse it so passionately?

    • Mr ian Tinkler

      Well, Stuart, just perhaps there is a bigger picture here. “kicking and screaming”, “endorse it so passionately”!!! Sounds almost like a sexual assault on democracy! Scotland is UK, the UK did vote to leave the EU, get over it, Stuart. The only thing stopping a soft open border in Ireland. That is just EU protectionism. Big World out there, the EU could not cope without its narrow protectionist laws. It is that and only that which threatens us, a hard, hard Brexit, just EU protectionism. Should be worth fighting that.

  5. marcia smullen

    Graham Fleming: My cat is a diabetic and here in California his insulin would cost $300/ vial at the local Walgreen’s pharmacy. I can mail order it expedited from Canada for $90/vial. Same brand name and same stuff used for people. Better bet is to get it from Canada.

    • Graham Fleming

      While pleased you can purchase insulin far cheaper in Canada rather than California, Marcia,for animals ,here in Caledonia thankfully its use in humans is very much regulated by the state.Why anyone would want to purchase it over the counter,(thanks to a free market is beyond me,)diabetes is a nasty debilitating condition, I would not wish it on anyone.Wether in the public or private sector always follow the advice of properly trained medical practitioners for its use and that of metformin ,it is the best and only ways(at the moment) to slowing the condition down.

  6. David Spence

    Thank you to those people who voted for Brex*hit, we will probably be paying much more than the USA, once the Tories get their share(s) into the USA companies taking over the pharmaceutical industry for our medication over here in the UK…………………..Oh, and the mass privatization of the whole of the NHS………..albeit by stealth and underhand political motives for the Tories.

    • Laurence Paton

      David I am surprised you are still here waiting for the Brexit Doomsday?

      Surely you must make for France whilst the going is still good !

      Just don’t forget to pack a yellow high vis vest and a good quality full face breathing respirator to deal with the tear gas.

  7. Peter Hamilton

    3 out of 5 of Ian’s posts contain personal attacks. Whilst he occasionally makes a valid point these are quickly lost in his snyde sneering attempt to belittle others.
    Medice, cura te ipsum

    Ralph Roberts could do nothing for Shetland if he bit the hand that feeds the local NHS. The responsibility to attack failed Tory austerity policies lies elsewhere.

    The NHS is in crisis across the UK. Westminster, not Holyrood, is therefore the source is the ills. Austerity fed into the dogs breakfast that is Brexit. Why not put the blame where it lies?

  8. Mr ian Tinkler

    Peter Hamilton, is this what the EU means. Yet another intellectual colossus chips in. Tusk, unelected, £150,000 plus eurocrat!! ” I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted #Brexit”. This president makes looks trump look sanguine, and Boris statement like. Have your socialist pals any comment?

    • John N Hunter

      You are quoting Donald Tusk slightly out of context. He was only referring to “those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan”. Those of you who know Brexit will lead to the sunny uplands of a new future will be ok.

      • Laurence Paton

        It’s poor show when our own fellow citizens won’t criticize an unelected president of an overseas Politburo who makes very distasteful remarks against the Demos within our own Country.

        Many ordinary folk promoted Brexit. Everybody who canvassed, Made donations, stated their case online, at work or at the pub. In fact everybody who voted for Brexit promoted and subsequently won that vote for Constitutional change to be enacted.

        It is the reasonable and rational position of preferring to not subscribe to undemocratic Supra-National Government and wanting the national parliaments in the British Isles to be the Ultimate authority through politicians that we the people directly elect.

  9. Peter Hamilton

    Ian now distorts, quotes selectively and exaggerates.

    “Unelected”? Donald Tusk owes his position to the expressed agreement of 26 out of 27 Heads of State, but Ian won’t let facts get between him and his dog whistle.

    Tusk’s full comment blamed leading Brexiteers for taking the country to the point of agreeing to Brexit with no plan for what to do next. By choosing not to quote half a dozen more words Ian blurs this important context.

    As for making Donald Trump “look sanguine”, Tusk maybe has just a tiny bit to go before that comparison would be valid. Hopefully Ian won’t object if my understatement punctures his bluster.

    Back to Tusk’s point, the Brexiteers leap into the dark has left people fearful about insulin supplies and jobs are being lost in the confusion. Economic prosperity in the U.K. and in Europe is in jeopardy. A little distain for the blasé brains behind Brexit may be merited.

    On deploying intemperate language, it was Ian’s “statesman”, Boris Johnson, who, as Foreign Secretary, said “Fxxx business”. Boris and his well-heeled chums are set to weather the next recession just fine and even profiting from the chaos, so no worries there I suppose.

    • Ali Inkster

      Brexiteers have a plan it is the remainer westminster and holyrood that are determined to make an arse of it and keep us tied to the eu. gleefully helped by a europhile media and folk like yourself lap it all up. If it had been left to brexiteers from all parties to get us out we would be out and soaring to new hieghts under WTO rules with a full ten years trading with EU on current terms as per article 24 of WTO. Plenty of time to sort out any treaty on trade going forward. We would be out of the CFP and Shetlands future would be very bright indeed.
      Instead we have remainers screwing it up and once they have tied us to the eu on terms worse than we have now they will turn around and blame those of us who voted for brexit for the mess they have made.
      Even though the MSM have been quiet about France and the real reason behind it (the eu) politicians should take note, they only need look to France for a taste of what will come if they do.

      • James Watt

        Dmitry Grozoubinski is an Australian trade negotiator who used to negotiate with the WTO, surprisingly he doesn’t share Ali’s opinions about article 24.

        “Heard this: “Article 24 of the WTO means we can keep the same trading relationship with the EU for 10 years?”

        It’s utter nonsense.”

        Ali isn’t just a little bit wrong, full thread here explaining how Ali and Jacob Rees Mogg have zero understanding of WTO rules.


      • John Tulloch

        I know little about “Article 24” however I offer this from the House of Commons Library. It claims that such an arrangement, while negotiating a final trade deal, is quite possible, subject to agreement by both parties? However, “GATT XXIV” only applies to goods and a separate arrangement (“GATS V”) would be applicable for services.

        “Trade law experts point out that a temporary agreement is possible while the UK is negotiating any type of a final trade deal with the EU. Indeed Dr Lorand Bartels of Cambridge University has drafted a short, bare-bones trade agreement to show that this is technically possible. The draft Withdrawal Agreement would also qualify.

        The UK cannot do this alone though. Under GATT Article XXIV, a WTO member would not be able to act unilaterally, in other words both parties to this future trade agreement would have to agree to it for it to apply.”

        “Moreover, GATT Article XXIV only applies to forming a customs union or a free trade area for goods. In talks of a future UK-EU relationship many other aspects of trade have to be settled such as the level of regulatory alignment, mutual recognition of standards, and crucially, trade in services, for which the equivalent to GATT Article XXIV is GATS Article V.

      • James Watt

        John, I assume you are referring to this when you mentioned the House of Commons Library


        After reading that page and your reply to my comment I believe Dmitry addresses this in the contents of my original post if you follow the link I provided you would see.

        “The ‘interim agreement’ referred to in Paragraph 5 allows Members forming a Customs Union to present to the WTO Membership an up to 10 year plan for getting there.

        This can include dropping tariffs on one another before a CU is in place, which would ordinarily not be ok.

        In practice, Paragraph 5 is not used much because Paragraph 7 basically gives all 164 WTO Members an effective veto over the interim agreement and its implementation plan.

        No one wants to have their Customs Union held hostage, so interim agreements are avoided.

        How does this apply to Brexit?

        It’s entirely irrelevant.

        The EU and UK are nowhere near agreeing a new permanent Customs Union. nor do they have an interim agreement or implementation plan to present to the Membership. Even if they did, Russia or someone would likely block.“

      • John Tulloch

        Yes, that’s it James. I intended to post the link but somehow, among the cutting and pasting, it didn’t happen.

        As I say, I know little about the subject and it’s an interesting point you raise, prompting me to do a little digging.

        I was intrigued by the Commons Library’s use of the term “temporary” as opposed to “interim” agreement and it turns out that while the rules remain the same the way the WTO handles cases has changed, in that interim agreements are now classified as “full” agreements with an implementation period and are usually handled by the WTO’s Council for Trade in Goods.

        This apparently makes life easier for those wishing to implement temporary agreements pending a full trade agreement/customs union.

        In particular, it seems individual nations cannot block an agreement so Mr Grozoubinski’s point about “Russia” seems to be void.

        See my next post for more details.

      • John Tulloch

        @James Watt,

        Apparently, the WTO procedure has changed.

        Dr Lorand Bartels, Cambridge University (2009)., reports that interim agreements are now classified as “full” agreements with an implementation period (full paper linked below). He concludes:

        “Most of the discussion….. has focused on the substantive requirements of fully fledged agreements. This brief note has looked instead at the rules governing ‘interim’ regional trade agreements….“

        “In fact, there are virtually no rules on this point, the matter being left up to the discretion of the relevant WTO organs (primarily the Council for Trade in Goods).” [i.e. individual nations cannot block – JT].

        “Formally, what is required is……that a notified interim agreement will indeed lead to a fully fledged agreement within a reasonable length of time; otherwise, they may make binding recommendations to ensure that this will happen. But even this control has proved too much for WTO Members…..(who)….have evolved a practice,…..of notifying ‘de facto’ interim agreements as ‘de jure’ “full” regional trade agreements with an implementation period.”

        “The effect – and doubtless the purpose – of this practice is to circumvent the few possibilities of controlling interim regional trade agreements.”

        In other words, WTO is amenable to interim trade agreements.


      • James Watt

        Much like yourself John, I’m happy to admit that I’m no expert on WTO trade rules, I’ve looked at the link you provided and read the conclusion a few times to try and understand the language used, without a great deal of success. A quick google search to help my understanding of Dr Lorand Bartels report did return a few helpful articles and one particularly interesting result, a tweet by Dr Bartels himself where he appears to question Jacob Rees Moggs interpretation of article 24.


        I wouldn’t want to claim to understand the contents of Lorand Bartels report or exactly how article 24 would affect Britain’s trade with the EU in the event of a no deal, but it seems pretty clear that Jacob Rees Mogg either has even less understanding than me or he’s wilfully misrepresenting the facts to deliberately mislead the British people.

      • Ali Inkster

        “Ali isn’t just a little bit wrong, full thread here explaining how Ali and Jacob Rees Mogg have zero understanding of WTO rules.”

        It seems that I am right and know more about WTO than you James. 🙂

      • James Watt

        “It seems that I am right and know more about WTO than you James. 🙂”

        Knowing more about WTO than me isn’t an achievement Ali, but I would be very surprised if you or JRM know more about WTO than Dmitry Grozoubinski or Dr Lorand Bartels, both of whom have dismissed Jacob Rees Moggs theory about article 24 as pure fantasy.

        Dmitry Grozoubinski- https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1076164811753439234.html

        “Heard this: “Article 24 of the WTO means we can keep the same trading relationship with the EU for 10 years?”

        It’s utter nonsense.”

        Dr Lorand Bartels- https://twitter.com/Lorand_Bartels/status/995350418992582658?s=20

        “It’s amazing how this awful misinterpretation of Art XXIV GATT won’t die, no matter how many times I point this out, directly to
        among others. Is there an underlying reason it is so popular with Brexiteers I wonder?”

        Both the links provided are in reply to Jacob Rees Moggs theory that article 24 is some sort of magical elixir that is garanteed continue free trade with the EU after Brexit.

        So using your unquestionable knowledge of WTO, perhaps you can help me understand how these two trade experts are wrong while you and JRM are right.

      • John Tulloch

        Aye, James, Rees-Mogg (JRM) can look after himself without any help from me however the validity or otherwise of his claim is of considerable interest to Shetland businesses seeking to maintain successful trade with the EU.

        I looked at the link you posted and Dr Bartels doesn’t explain his objection to JRM’s claim. Unable to distinguish the difference between their views, I did a little more digging and it turns out that Dr Bartels thought JRM was claiming we could invoke Article 24 unilaterally when in fact he was not claiming any such thing.

        The two exchanged views face to face on the Daily Politics show (see link below) which ended with Dr Bartels saying, “you have to have an agreement, it can’t be done on a unilateral basis,” to which JRM replied, “Of course,.. if that’s the only quibble……it should be very straightforward for the UK and EU to say, “we will continue this agreement until we have reached a new agreement.” To which Dr Bartels responded, “In that case, we’re in agreement.” And, turning to presenter Jo Coburn, laughing, “Sorry to kill the debate!”

        So I can’t accept your assertion that JRM lacks understanding of Article 24 or is “wilfully misrepresenting the facts to deliberately mislead the British people.” In fact, it seems his understanding of it is actually rather good.

        On the face of it Article 24 seems an attractive route that would avoid many of the so-called “cliff edge” problems that people fret over, don’t you agree?


  10. Peter Hamilton

    Pretending to be offended is be bit feeble, especially when it builds on deliberately misunderstanding what was said.

    Surely Laurence is smart enough to know Tusk’s “very distasteful remark” was targeted at Brexit promoters not Brexit voters?

    If people attend a charity gig, festival or concert and later learn the promoters put it on purely in order to line own their pockets, they’d be right to say there should be a special place in hell for those promoters.

    If the purpose of public debate is to find truth it would help if contributors would avoid exaggerating.

    I’m still wondering about what lies behind Ali’s “europhile media” comment. It took a little work but apparently his “MSM” is the mainstream media, and not a dietary supplement for constipation, inflammation and stretch-marks. And there was me thinking that France’s problem was the shine rubbing off Macron’s shallow centrist populism, but apparently it’s all fake news.

    There are problems with the focus of the British media. One tonic is open.democracy.net who, possibly unlike Ali’s sources, name their funders. Try this: https://www.opendemocracy.net/aidan-mcquade/brexit-lies-and-rich-folk

    Perhaps Ali will provide a list of reliable alt-right news sites for folk like myself to “gleefully lap up” instead. Woof!

    • Laurence Paton

      Your well on your way to becoming the remainer equivalent of HIROO Onoda.
      The Japanese Soldier discovered dutifully at his post 30 years after the war had ended.
      You will hopefully wake up one morning in the future and finally realize that not only does the Empire you dream of not exist or alternatively that membership of it was not essential for peaceful prosperity… All the best of Great British Luck old Chap !

      • Graham Fleming

        Boomtime Ireland being part of the E.U saw its economy surge by 6.7% last year.Brexit Britain grew by 1.4%and by factoring in the collapse of the English pound by 12% very few people are seeing rises in standards of living here!When has peaceful prosperity ever been part of the equation from Westminster as from Northern Ireland to Iraq are witness.The clamour for Irish unity is only going to get louder.Scotland should bang on the Dail Eireans door too or look to Norway for unity to get into EFTA,anything to get away from the stale lies and perpetual conflict , served up from the poisoned dwarfed politicians here!

    • Ian Tinkler

      Dmitry Grozoubinski, an ex-negotiator. He is not ” is an Australian trade negotiator ” James Watt. Just as Salmond is not SNP. Interesting World is it not.

      • James Watt

        Ian, Dmitry has worked as a Diplomat and Trade Negotiator with the Australian Permanent Mission to the World Trade Organization, and a policy officer at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He was a negotiator at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference, UNCTAD’s 14th Quadrennial Conference and on the Trade in Services Agreement. He also holds a Masters in Diplomacy and Trade from the Monash University Graduate School of Business.
        I think the term Australian trade negotiator is accurate enough for a man of his education and experience but if you prefer I will refer to him as an ex negotiator. Can you highlight any inaccuracies in the ex negotiators explanation of how article 24 works?

      • Ian Tinkler

        No need to James. He is an ex-negotiator, no longer is he ” a Diplomat and Trade Negotiator with the Australian Permanent Mission to the World Trade Organization, and a policy officer at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He was a negotiator at the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference, UNCTAD’s 14th Quadrennial Conference and on the Trade in Services Agreement.”. Yesterday’s man, rather like a certain ex SNP man. I judge a man by what he is not what he was or has been. The SNP would do well to do the same!!!

  11. David Spence

    Why did the Tories have the EU Ref. if it was not going to be in their favour? What was the hidden agenda of the Tories for having the EU Ref. if they did not see an opportunity to benefit from it?

    The country is very much divided on this and it has caused heated debates on the subject. However, is anybody clear on the benefits of leaving the EU and whether we will be better off………despite, I believe, 65% of British businesses dealing with the EU? After Brexit, we will have the extra costs of trade under WTO rules and regulations which will increase the cost of importing as well as exporting goods.

    Brexit, as a whole, will increase the cost of living.

    The motive, as far as I can see, for the EU Ref. was for this government to have a trade deal with the USA, and the subsequent mass privatization of most government responsibilities and duties of care.

    As for the fishing industry and the so-called benefit of free markets out with the EU, dream on, you will not get what you are asking for……….if other countries have their say.

    • Ian Tinkler

      “poisoned dwarfed politicians” how prejudicial can you get, what is wrong with poor dwarfs, I am sure they hate being called politicians and not too keen on being poisoned either for that matter. Now there is loads wrong with politicians of all parties but perhaps Graham, an SNP advocate. is best not the one to throw stones at this time!!! Remember Sturgeon is under investigation for possibly breaking Scotlands ministerial code, enough said!! (she is quite petite but not a dwarf even if a bit Grumpy!!)

      • Graham Fleming

        Jim Ratcliffe now ratting on the U.K so much for the great British brexit, (like Dyson running away when their country needs them.)We are no wiser what kind of trade agreements and tariffs Scottish exporters are now going to face in the Euro market .Our pygmy politicians , (I am not a member of any of them) have now a long way to catch up with our neighbours.Britannia is steaming away from prosperity and now looking to scuttle itself high and dry , and talk about the return of that Nigel Farage, ( oh my gawd ),I am sure the Samaritans phone a friend line will be rather busy.Thank goodness I am away on holiday, next week!

Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to editorial@shetlandtimes.co.uk for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.