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Lawyers In For Britain: The UK and the EU: Benefits, misconceptions and alternatives banner

Protection against contagious diseases, health research and the ability to have foreign health care costs covered for free are all enhanced by EU membership.

  • The UK’s health security is improved by being in Europe. Infectious diseases do not stop at national borders. The EU has a well-established system for the surveillance and early warning of infectious diseases which the UK has often called upon to deal with threats to the health of its population.[1] This is an important role which could not be effectively fulfilled by the UK alone.
  • For example, the 2009 H1N1 (bird flu) pandemic was successfully contained in Europe partly because the EU provided coordination through the Joint Health Security Committee/European Early Warning and Response System. These bodies enabled EU countries to share information on the evolution of the virus between Member States and to coordinate their public health protection measures.[2]
  • Europe promotes and funds health research across Europe. The UK is the largest beneficiary of EU funding for health research (over €570 million (£466 million)[3] from 2007 until 2012).[4] Current areas of focus include cooperation in the areas of antimicrobial resistance, mental health, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – for the benefit of UK citizens.[5]
  • The UK depends to a large extent on EU imports of fruit, vegetables, meat and fish to maintain the variety of foods available on its tables all year round. 69% (by value) of the UK’s food imports come from the EU. EU standards mean that consumers can be confident that food and food production is of the same high standards of hygiene and safety regardless of the EU country of origin.
  • British people in the EU can have their healthcare costs covered for free, or at a reduced cost, by using the European Health Insurance Card.[6]
  • EU law also gives the NHS the ability to seek reimbursement from other EU countries for the cost of healthcare provided in the UK to visitors or state pensioners from other EU member states.[7]

A British exit from the EU would damage pharmaceutical research and reduce the UK’s influence in medicine. John Lechleiter, chief executive of Eli Lilly, told the Financial Times that it would be a “shame and a mistake” if Britain left the EU. He said that Eli Lilly’s UK research centre was “literally a global research centre” and that a vote to leave the EU would “in the long term isolate the UK, more to its detriment”.[8]


 

  1. For legislation on Communicable diseases see: http://ec.europa.eu/health/communicable_diseases/early_warning/comm_legislation_en.htm.
  2. HM Government, Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union – Health, July 2013, Case Study 3E: Pandemic Flu, page 42 – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/224715/2901083_EU-Health_acc.pdf.
  3. This figure is based on an average €/£ exchange rate of 0.81820, based on European Central Bank data between 2007 and 2012.
  4. HM Government, Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union – Health, July 2013, paragraph 3.17.3, see the submissions of the NHS European Office for more details: “The UK is the largest EU Member State beneficiary of EU funding into health research. Throughout the first six years of the EU’s current seven year Framework Programme for research (FP7), the UK received over €570 million in EU funding, over 17% of the whole EU contribution and €30 million more than Germany, the second highest beneficiary” – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/224715/2901083_EU-Health_acc.pdf.
  5. HM Government, Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union – Health, July 2013, Case Study 3F: EU initiatives on AMR (antimicrobial resistance), page 43; Case Study 3G: European Mental Health Strategy, page 47; Case Study 3H: Dementia, page 48 – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/224715/2901083_EU-Health_acc.pdf.
  6. Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the coordination of social security systems – http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2004:166:0001:0123:en:PDF; and HM Government, Review of the Balance of Competences between the United Kingdom and the European Union – Health, July 2013, paragraphs 3.15.2 and 3.15.5. “Depending of the legislation of the country where you are staying, health care is either free or, if you have to pay, you will be reimbursed.” – Frequently Asked Questions, The European Health Insurance Card – http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=857&intPageId=1304&langId=en.
  7. Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the coordination of social security systems – http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2004:166:0001:0123:en:PDF.
  8. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9216298e-bf67-11e5-846f-79b0e3d20eaf.html#axzz3yMOLEDnw.