The Prime Minister and the opposition have both demanded continued membership of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) after the country leaves the European Union.
Mrs May said today the UK and EU would both benefit from Britain’s continued EMA membership and called for a “far-reaching science and innovation pact” after Brexit.
The PM said Britain’s “world-leading universities” and industrious regulatory meant the bloc would suffer if the country was denied EMA membership after Brexit.
Countries outside the EU but within the European Economic Area, such as Norway, are part of the EMA. However because Mrs May is determined to leave the single market, their future membership of the EMA is also in doubt.
She said today: “Membership would mean investment in new innovative medicines continuing in the UK, and it would mean these medicines getting to patients faster as firms prioritise larger markets when they start the lengthy process of seeking authorisations.
“But it would also be good for the EU because the UK regulator assesses more new medicines than any other member state.
“And the EU would continue to access the expertise of the UK’s world-leading universities.”
Mrs May’s comments came hours before Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth was due to give a speech demanding continued membership of the EMA, an agency for regulating medical supplies currently based in London.
Today Jonathan Ashworth will warn “disease knows no borders” and say it is “utterly unacceptable” for there to be uncertainty about the arrangements after Brexit.
He will also promise that Labour would ensure medics and carers from other EU states will continue to be able to come and work in the UK after it has left the bloc.
Setting out his Brexit “red line”, Mr Ashworth will say: “Given the scale of trade between the UK and the EU on medicines, but perhaps more fundamentally given disease knows no borders, it would be great folly to dismiss the huge benefits that the UK and the EU 27 have gained from our close relationship over the past 40 years.
“It is utterly unacceptable to put patient safety at risk because of lack of certainty about medicine regulation post-Brexit.
“Slow progress on reaching a deal could mean delays accessing potentially life-saving treatments, harming patient and public health in both the UK and EU.
“Labour will not sign off on a Brexit deal that turns the clock back on medical innovation or sees patients in the UK having to wait longer to get access to life-changing treatments.
“It is a red line for me and it is a red line for the Labour Party.”