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Pharmacy minister Steve Brine resigns from government over Brexit

Steve Brine was appointed as pharmacy minister in June 2017
Steve Brine was appointed as pharmacy minister in June 2017

Pharmacy minister Steve Brine resigned from the government last night (March 25) to vote against Theresa May over Brexit.

Mr Brine was one of three Conservative MPs to resign on Monday night – including former pharmacy minister Alistair Burt – to vote against the government's EU withdrawal deal strategy.

In his resignation letter, Mr Brine said despite supporting Ms May’s Brexit deal in two previous votes, “it looks like a tall order for it to pass the House of Commons, so we are left in a position where the House must find a common position”.

“The honourable thing [is] to leave the government,” Mr Brine said, and vote in favour of an amendment that will allow MPs to vote on a series of motions on Brexit – so-called “indicative votes”.

“I feel so passionate that leaving without a withdrawal agreement…is not acceptable to me or in the national interest,” he stressed.

Mr Brine paid tribute to the “highly competent and professional team at the Department of Health and Social Care (DH), led by our outstanding secretary of state Matt Hancock, who have done everything they can to ensure medicines and medical supplies will be protected for patients whatever form our exit from the EU takes”.

“Health is without question the best prepared department in Whitehall,” he said.

Read C+D editor James Waldron's initial reaction to Mr Brine’s departure.

PSNC: Brine was supportive of pharmacy

In a statement this morning, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Simon Dukes said “considerable progress” to rebuild a constructive working relationship with the government had been made over the past year, and Mr Brine “was central to that”.

“He regularly expressed his support for community pharmacy in parliamentary statements and beyond, and we look forward to continuing to work with him as an MP on pharmacy and public health matters.”

“Given the extraordinary situation in parliament at the moment, it is unclear when another minister might be appointed,” Mr Dukes added.

However, PSNC will continue to talk to the DH and NHS England and “stress the importance and urgency of the upcoming community pharmacy funding negotiations”.

Mr Dukes hopes negotiations for the next pharmacy contract will start before Easter.

NPA: Current situation is unsustainable

National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chief executive Mark Lyonette said Mr Brine “showed a willingness to engage positively with our sector and we hope he will continue an active interest now he is on the backbenches”.

The NPA “will make the case to his successor that the current situation in community pharmacy is unsustainable and needs urgent attention”, Mr Lyonette added.

Time in post

Mr Brine was appointed pharmacy minister in June 2017, replacing David Mowat, who lost his seat in his constituency of Warrington South in the general election.

Responding to C+D's open letter in September 2017, Mr Brine said he wanted to see a "fair, realistic and sustainable" funding settlement for the sector.

Speaking to C+D at the opening of wholesaler Sigma Pharmaceutical’s automated warehouse in March last year, Mr Brine said community pharmacies “have got to embrace technology and embrace the future, because that is what serves patients better”.

He was due to meet with the all-party pharmacy group (APPG) on April 3 to discuss pharmacy’s role in delivering the NHS long-term plan.

Twitter reaction
What do you make of Steve Brine's time as pharmacy minister?

Paul Dishman, Pharmaceutical Adviser

He was an utter waste of space anyway

Leon The Apothecary, Student

So in the nicest possible way, did he do anything tangible and useful in his role?

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Can you name any MP that has done anything tangible and useful in their role ?

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

He'll be sorely missed. How will pharmacy continuw without him?!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Ah, irony....way over the heads of the four thumbs down!

Ravinder Rahanu, Community pharmacist

 I wonder whether it was Brexit or being Pharmacy minister , elected politicians are supposed to act in the best interests of the whole population( including pharmacists )not their indvidual self interests . I dont think it served either.


 The whole episode of Brexit reminds me of pigs who think they are more equal than the rest.(cf . animal farm)

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