By Rob Verkerk PhD, founder, executive & scientific director

The many reactions to Brexit, both in the UK and the rest of the world, continue to reverberate. Among the most surprising to us are the regrets voiced by some who voted ‘Leave’ yet are now regretting their vote. Referendums typically are held to decide on major constitutional issues, and that’s just what the 23 June referendum represented for the British people.

At ANH-Intl, we have been closely involved with EU and national laws affecting natural products for nearly 15 years. We have also long worked to influence these laws, especially those that contribute to excessive restrictions on individual freedoms and liberties and our consequent ability as citizens to manage our health through natural means.  Additionally, our consultancy arm has also helped to keep many natural products on the market, and we’ve helped a large number of practitioners negotiate the complex minefield of EU and national laws. Drawing on all of this background, we provide here a summary analysis of what we consider to be among the key issues facing the UK from standpoint of UK consumers, UK businesses and non-UK businesses trading in the UK – as far as they relate to natural health.

SWOT

We’ve decided to do this as a SWOT analysis, and so have taken into account what we see as among the clearest Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that face natural health in the UK now that the country has decided to terminate its membership of the EU. Loosely, the strengths and weaknesses relate more to internal factors within the UK, and opportunities and threats relate more to external factors outside the UK. As with any SWOT methodology, the goal must be defined. Ours reflects ANH-Intl’s mission and so is to ensure that citizens, in this case within the UK, are able to optimise their wellbeing and quality of life by increasing their adoption of viable and sustainable healthcare strategies based on natural means following the UK’s exit from the EU.

 

 

Heads down, not in the sand

Two things are difficult to deny: the first is that the real work remains ahead. It will start in earnest when current prime minister David Cameron steps down and a new leadership of the Conservative party capable of leading the UK’s exit from the EU is appointed in around 3 months time. The second thing we cannot ignore is that uncertainty is guaranteed unless the UK people, and its various trade sectors, work together in a cohesive manner. This will require many of those who are currently still reeling from the decision of the UK people to take stock and contribute, pro-actively, to the creation of a new UK freed from the shackles of the EU.

At the ANH-Intl, we will be taking a much more active part in the political process in the UK, while not downgrading our involvement at the EU level where we will continue to support citizens and natural health interests in the remaining 27 EU member states. With your help and support, we hope we can work effectively together to help create the best possible future for natural health and all its various interests and — above all — the consumer.

We hope our SWOT analysis provides some sort of a marker that relates Brexit to natural health. As with any summary analysis, we’ve left out more than we’ve included. But we hope those issues we have included, in each of the four areas of the SWOT analysis, may be helpful in guiding both consumer and natural health trade strategies in the coming months.

ANH-Intl SWOT Analysis of Brexit and the future of natural health in the UK

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

  • National sovereignty regained – British people are able to regain their sense of national sovereignty
  • Accountability returns to UK – The UK government becomes democratically accountable to the UK people. With the UK in the EU, the  European Commission was largely unaccountable, being only weakly influenced by the European Parliament
  • EU laws not directly relevant – No longer at the mercy of overly restrictive EU consumer protection and competition laws ‘made in Brussels’ that limit freedom of choice and health claims about foods and food supplements, being often EU protectionist in nature
  • EU case law loses supremacy – Not susceptible to unexpected or unwelcome judgments by the European Courts (of Justice and Human Rights) as administration of justice is returned to the Courts of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
  • SMEs freed from EU shackles –  EU-originating restrictions on SMEs lifted or not directly relevant
  • EU case law no longer relevant – Natural products companies are no longer able to rely on EU case law from the European Court of Justice where these overrule more restrictive decisions by UK authorities (e.g. MHRA)
  • Mutual recognition no longer relevant – the Mutual Recognition Regulation currently prevents one EU member state imposing a barrier to trade on a product which is sold safely in another member state. This won’t any longer apply.
  • Trade negotiations – the quality of trade negotiations will depend on the quality of the negotiators as well as the resources and information available to them, which may be limited
  • Achieving consensus for advocacy – There is a risk that it won’t be possible to marshal the required consensus of views, especially among the young who voted strongly to remain in the EU, to influence UK Members of Parliament to act in the best interests of UK consumers (of all age groups) and natural products businesses (the majority being SMEs). This issue may be aggravated by a blurring between ‘thinking Brexiters’ and far-right and racist groups
  • Head-in-the-sand – ‘Remainers’ and others fail to engage sufficiently in the political and grassroots process to help build a proportionate legal infrastructure through the democratic process
  • World standing – The UK may lose standing (economically and politically) as it is no longer a key player in one of the two largest trading blocs in the world (EU and NAFTA)

OPPORTUNITIES

THREATS

  • Advocacy – Heavy and effective engagement in advocacy from consumers, businesses and health professionals to ensure that effective and proportionate national laws are created that do not limit freedom of choice or health claims
  • Trade deals – The UK negotiates favourable trade deals with other countries (e.g. USA, India, China, sub-Saharan African countries, South American countries, Australasian countries) and trading blocs (including EU) that increases the diversity of available natural products and keeps prices competitive
  • Consumer protection and fair trade – The UK will no longer be just one of 28 voices in consensus-based inter-governmental organisations like Codex Alimentarius and will be able to act in its own interests
  • EU membership fee savings – Savings in EU membership fees put to good use to help British businesses grow and compete in UK and international markets
  • Creation of world-leading legislative framework –  The UK could lead the world in natural product regulation by integrating the rational, proportionate and fair elements of EU law and ditching the rest
  • Building UK business – Increased opportunities for UK-based manufacturing of natural products without limitations of protectionist EU laws
  • Harmonisation – UK authorities (e.g. MHRA, Department of Health) shape national laws that harmonise with EU rules – or, worse still – are even more restrictive
  • UK faces isolation – The UK may become more isolated and may be unable to hold its own in the face of pressure and inter-governmental agreements from trading blocs like the EU and NAFTA or in forums like the Codex Alimentarius Commission
  • Market uncertainty and volatility – Uncertainty and market volatility in the wake of Brexit (which could last several years) obstructs growth and innovation in UK-based businesses and adversely effects imports of natural health products, ingredients and raw materials
  • Tax and price increases – Taxes are raised and prices of healthy foods, imported ingredients and natural health products increase
  • Supply chain disruption – Existing supply chains required to convert raw materials (often sourced from outside the EU) to finished products are disrupted creating supply issues and increased costs
  • Bad deals better than no deals? – with pressures on the UK to establish trade deals to maintain itself as the world’s fifth largest economy (in GDP terms), the UK could be vulnerable to establishing deals that are unfavourable to natural health freedoms, which may be characterised as TTIPs on steroids

Downloadable version of this SWOT Analysis.

Many of the issues we raise in the SWOT analysis above have highly variable and indeterminate time frames. We’ve chosen to not second guess what these might be as there are so many things that might or might not happen, many in turn dependent on the nature and sequence of events that occur once Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty has been invoked, in around 3 months time. This will include who is will succeed David Cameron, what support he or she has within and outside the Conservative party, including internationally, and who will be negotiating trade deals, in whose interests. There’s even a possibility that the referendum result might be ignored entirely.

The post-Article 50 process will not be plain sailing. Far from it. But it behoves all of the UK to come together to create the best future for the nation, one that embraces some of the key elements that defined Britain’s contribution to the world’s dominant economic, trade, justice and, above all, democratic systems.

The best future for natural health in the UK will be gained by us moving forward with as much information available to us as possible, wide-eyed and open-minded. In this way, the UK can create its new destiny, maximising the undeniable strengths and opportunities of the situation the majority of its population has opted for, while being mindful of the weaknesses and threats.

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Comments

  1. From this vantage point (Republic of Ireland) it seems that it’s a case of ‘Goodbye Great Britain. Hello Little England.’

    In despair.

    1. Enjoy your despair- We’ll be getting on with enjoying some much needed freedom.
      This could be the best natural health news of the decade- so come and join us when you can.

  2. Leaving the EU was a sound outcome. However, the elite will do everything they can to see that the British people suffer and come to regret their vote, as your example mentions. Prominent people in all walks of life need to be recruited to speak out to the British people and explain this. They came thru the bombings during WWII, so what they are facing now is much easier and they need to stand up to the bullies who aren’t happy with the power they’ve lost.

    1. I think the elite are well on the way to a good wing clipping.
      The old saying said never under estimate your enemy and the EU made us outsiders once too many times and reaped their reward.
      Now, they can learn a thing or too about the democracy needed to liberate peoples creative energies.

  3. Brexit may provide a fantastic opportunity to set the UK apart from all others in the world and become a leader instead of a “runner in the pack” in terms of revolutionizing health care.
    This the time and the moment that no other country has been provided with.

  4. I think leaving the EU leaves Britain very vulnerable in terms of negotiating new trade treaties- Tipp on steroids is a really big threat now and we all know how the US Pharamceuticals behave. Better to fight laws on natural health pro cuts from within the EU. There are many millions of EU citizens who would band together to support this cause indeed, here in Germany ( I am UK born but living here for a while) doctors prescribe food supplements, vitamins minerals and homeopathic / tissue salt remedies and they are even occasionally paid for by the health service.. there are strong forces FOR us here if we would only work together. Isolated Britain or England and Wales and Northern Ireland as it will very soon become, we are not strong and definitely not Great. but then that is History for you.

  5. What about the square mile in London where all the big world banks are at? It’s already sovereign and not under the laws of Europe. Why don’t we hear about this part of the country in the ‘news’. Or didn’t the people vote for this part…

  6. Thank you for the article. Unfortunately it cannot be read properly in I-phone. The tables are largely hidden.
    Thank you.
    Janice

    1. Hi Janice, thanks for bringing this to our attention. We are in the process of creating a PDF of the table, which will be downloadable. I hope this helps!

  7. My concern is (amongst others) that without EU regulation the UK may end up facing more and worse synthetic chemicals in our food produce, increased GMOs and maybe even having these things hidden from consumers just as the situation is in America.

  8. The UK was a world leader until:
    1. We gave up real sovereignty to the undemocratic (dare I say fascist?) cabal in Brussels.

    2. We gave up common law for the EU Napoleonic code

    3. We implemented WTO and EU directives and allowed the foreign takeover of critical UK businesses (unlike most other countries who manage to make it too difficult EG Germany/Spain/USA).

    4. We allow companies such as Boots the Chemist, paying hundreds of millions in profits tax from supplying the NHS, to be taken over by a Swiss national, then move its headquarters to Switzerland to pay of the takeover loan from the profits tax no longer paid in the UK. The loan is now paid off and in fact the person who purchased use UK taxpayers money to purchase the company.

    5. We allow foreign companies such as The Carlyle Group to purchase Holland & Barrett. The Carlyle Group is considered by many to be an unfit company (and worse) and you need to Google it to make up your own mind.

    The fact is Britain is not only open for business it is on sale to anyone. To prove the point London has been already sold to anyone. No checks where the billions comes from.

    We really do have the opportunity to make Britain great but we need to make it honest first.
    Robert Redfern
    NaturallyHealthyNews.com

  9. The MHRA has already demonstrated itself to be more hard line in its approach to THMPD than other EU countries. I fear that it may continue to imposethese more restrictive policies after Brexit is complete. Quis custodies ipsos custodiet?

  10. With its imposition of the Napoleonic Code (in Law, which insists that everything needs to be written down to be ‘legal’) the EU had almost completely trashed our Common Law (which says EVERYTHING is ‘legal’ except if legislated against by Parliament or when in a Court judgement a legal precedent is established). Thank the LEAVE crowd, we now have that back.

  11. Reading somer of the comments above makes one despair. The EU was not perfect but slowly, slowly we were building bonds and an understanding of our neighbours. This would have taken many years but in a fit of petty, nationalistic pride we have have given a fingers up salutation to anyone who did not exactly agree with us. For so long we have had peace in what previously was an area always involved in conflict.
    I know of people whose ability to obtain work is going to be severely affected as before they could work in the EU (representing England with pride) without impediment but now there is a worry about how they will be accepted. Getting work permits for other countries such as the USA is a bureaucratic nightmare unless one is supported by a large company. .
    Those countries who were our allies in the second world was were our companions in building a community today and those that were our enemies were also our companions. Surely that is a good thing? Being within such a community we would have more influence on its actions and its say in world affairs than when we are outside looking in. Europe can now be a loose cannon. Putin and Trump must be very happy.

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