No-Deal Brexit Drug Supply Plans Face Last-Minute Lawsuit

(Bloomberg) -- The lawyer behind a landmark ruling allowing the U.K. to change its mind on Brexit is planning an 11th-hour challenge to the government’s plans for drug supplies if the country tumbles out of the European Union next month without a deal.

Jolyon Maugham, who runs an anti-Brexit organization, is preparing to file a legal challenge over regulations covering the availability of medicines, he said in a statement on Tuesday.

His group, the Good Law Project, wants the government to consult over its plan, which would allow pharmacists to hand out different medications for the same condition during a serious drugs shortage. Since government consultations generally take several weeks and the U.K.’s scheduled departure from the EU is less than six weeks away, the timings are tight.

“Lives are at stake and these measures need to be properly thought through – however long that takes. This is too important to be done in a hurry,” Maugham said by email. The group will file a lawsuit unless the government cancels new rules that allow pharmacists to alter prescriptions, he said. Those rules took effect Feb. 9.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said it has received a letter from the Good Law Project’s lawyers about the case and is considering it.

Little Scrutiny

The case is one example of how a mass of changes have been made in preparation for Brexit with relatively little scrutiny, said Philippa Whitford, a Scottish National Party lawmaker in Westminster, and former surgeon, who has opposed the government’s no-deal drug supply plan.

“For such a significant change to be snuck through with no debate or scrutiny is astounding,” she said, because doctors should be consulted before a patient’s medication is changed.

Maugham, an outspoken voice against Brexit, has been behind several cases over the U.K.’s departure from the bloc. He spearheaded a lawsuit that ended with a ruling from the EU’s top court in December that Britain is able to reverse the Brexit process without EU approval if it chooses to do so.

He ran a 2016 crowdfunding campaign for a legal challenge over Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to trigger the so-called Article 50 process -- that started the clock ticking on Brexit -- without first holding a vote in Parliament. That campaign became the People’s Challenge, one of the groups supporting another anti-Brexit activist, Gina Miller, in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, and won.

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