Open Letter Warns Brexit May Threaten UK’s War on Drugs

(CN) – A drug and addiction monitoring organization warned the U.K. Wednesday that its decision to leave the European Union may result in it being out of the loop about Europe’s illegal drug problem.

Great Britain voted to leave the European Union in June of 2016, with the separation date currently projected for March 29, 2019. Part of the departure will mean withdrawing from EU resources, which includes the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. The Centre was established in 1993 to provide “factual, objective, reliable and comparable information concerning drugs, drug addiction and their consequences.”

The Centre’s mandate is to monitor, establish best practices, facilitate the exchange of knowledge and data, provide leadership on new psychoactive substances, and assist with policy making in individual European countries and the EU as a whole. In a letter released today, the agency points out that “intelligence assembled by EMCDDA and Europol has been crucial to the UK’s response to organised crime and illicit trade in drugs.”

Without that information, the U.K.’s battle against illicit drugs may be severely hampered, the agency warns.

Among other resources maintained by the EMCDDA is the European Union Early Warning System on novel psychoactive substances. The letter, which is signed by seven medical and academic experts in the field, points out that, “[t]his area is changing rapidly, so up to date knowledge is vital for the UK’s drug strategy.”

While the letter acknowledges that the U.K.’s government “has expressed its intention to ensure that the health and security of UK citizens will not be negatively affected by Brexit,” it also notes that unless the U.K. can work out a strategy for interacting with the EMCDDA, the health and safety of U.K. citizens will be at risk.

“Collaboration between the UK and the EMCDDA has been transformative, making a major contribution to national drug policy and the fight against organised crime,” the letter says. “Exclusion from its operations poses a severe threat to both.”

The letter urges U.K. lawmakers to determine strategies that will allow a post-Brexit U.K. to work with the EMCDDA before the separation date arrives.

“We call on the UK government to show leadership in taking all necessary action to ensure continued collaboration with the EMCDDA, thereby enabling health professionals to keep ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing situation, allowing them to continue participating in surveillance systems, to respond appropriately to emerging threats, and to support policy and operational responses,” the letter concludes. “Ministers have committed to ensuring that Brexit should not be allowed to undermine public health. This is an opportunity to show that commitment.”

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