Government seeks Brexit antidote with life sciences backing

The government will insist next week that the future of the UK‎’s life sciences sector is healthy despite Brexit-related concerns among major drug companies when it launches another phase of its year-old industrial strategy.

Sky News has learnt that companies including London-listed GW‎ Pharmaceuticals and Roche, the Swiss giant, have agreed to endorse ministers’ plans to unveil the second phase of their life sciences sector deal.

The announcement is expected to contain modest numbers in relation to new jobs and investment, but will be hailed by the Government as a signal of ‎multinationals’ willingness to commit to their UK operations over the long term.

Sources said the ‘life sciences sector deal 2’ would be unveiled almost a year to the day after Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, announced the first phase of the industry’s Government support package.

The original phase included roughly 25 companies, including GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, the UK’s two biggest pharmaceutical groups and a commitment from Government to increasing investment in research and development to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

GW Pharmaceuticals, which specialises in developing medicines created from cannabis, is understood to be recommitting to creating a further 100 UK jobs.

Roche, which already employs about 2000 people in the UK, is understood be preparing a new investment programme, although its chief executive warned in the autumn that a hard Brexit would make Britain “markedly less competitive” as an investment destination for drug companies.

Next week’s announcement will come against a backdrop of major drug companies warning about the need for stockpiling and other contingency measures they are taking ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU.

The life sciences sector deal‎ is one of a number launched int the last 12 months as the Government seeks to use a modern industrial strategy to drive improvements in infrastructure, productivity and technology.

GW Pharmaceuticals, Roche and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy declined to comment.

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