EU confirms PPE export controls as UK secures medicines supply

Out-Law News | 31 Mar 2020 | 5:41 pm | 2 min. read

Personal protective equipment (PPE) can be exported from the EU to the UK without restriction, the European Commission has confirmed. The UK government has separately extended the number of medicines it has banned from being parallel exported.

The Commission had previously published emergency legislation to apply a six week ban on the exporting of face masks, gloves, visors and other PPE outside of the EU without prior authorisation in response to the increased demand for the kit in light of the spread of coronavirus, officially Covid-19.

Guidance the Commission has now issued on its export control measures has confirmed that the restrictions do not apply to trade with the UK.

Stacy Keen of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "With the fight against Covid-19 underway the EU has carved out certain linked countries outside of the EU from the export control restriction on types of PPE. It has also stated that it may review the items subject to the restriction depending on the evidence of the scarcity of supplies or of increased manufacturing capacities alleviating shortage concerns."

"Notably the guidance published on the restriction makes clear that exports from the EU to the UK, and vice versa, do not fall within the scope of the restriction under the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement," she said.

Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, overseas countries and territories of EU member states, and the Faroe Islands, Andorra, San Marino and the Vatican City are also exempt from the prior authorisation requirement.

In deciding whether or not to grant an export authorisation, EU member states "must fulfil the objective of the implementing act, i.e. ensure the adequacy of supply in the Union in order to meet the vital demand for PPE". The guidance also states that "it is not the intention of the Union to restrict exports any more than absolutely necessary, and the Union also wishes to uphold the principle of international solidarity in this situation of a global pandemic".

Member states can grant authorisations where the export falls within a particular category described in the Regulation, for example to support the activities of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Outbreak Alert & Response Network (GOARN) and to supply foreign operations of EU member states. These include military operations, international police missions and/or civilian international peacekeeping missions.

Member states can also export PPE if they ensure that "the shipment in question poses no threat to the actual need for PPE within the Union and serves to satisfy a legitimate need for official or professional medical use in a third country".

Keen Stacy

Stacy Keen

Senior Associate

The UK has announced that more than 80 medicines used to treat patients in intensive care units have been banned from parallel export from the UK

Keen also highlighted export controls the UK government has introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"In a further attempt to ensure the availability of supplies to battle Covid-19, the UK has announced that more than 80 medicines used to treat patients in intensive care units have been banned from parallel export from the UK," Keen said.

Parallel exporting is when companies buy medicines meant for UK patients and sell on for a higher price in another country. Paracetamol of all strengths and form is included on the UK list.

The UK government said: "The restrictions are a standard measure to manage potential medicine shortages and protects UK patients by ensuring the NHS has the treatments to continue providing world-class care. Companies that parallel export a medicine on the ban list may face tough enforcement action from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and risk having their trading licence revoked for serious breaches."