Blog: Numis Plans Dublin Office to Bolster EU Offerings Post-Brexit – Bloomberg

Numis Corp. plans to open an office in Dublin during the first half of 2022, as the London-based broker looks to expand its business in the bloc.

While Brexit has had “minimal impact on the performance of the business, an EU office would both restore certain EU institutional client relationships and provide us with the opportunity to expand our capital markets offering throughout Europe,” Numis said in a statement Friday. “We will be investing in capability across both investment banking and equities within the new Irish subsidiary.”

The EU office is likely to be a relatively small operation. The Irish Times has previously reported that Numis would initially employ fewer than 10 staff at the hub.

Numis is just one of many financial companies adjusting their operations because of Brexit. Banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co. have shifted jobs and assets into the bloc in recent years to cater to EU clients now the U.K. has left the bloc. The U.S. lender is further expanding its balance sheet in Frankfurt this year, according to a company filing.

Even without an EU unit, Numis reported record half-year revenue of 115 million pounds ($160 million) for the six months through March, up 83% compared to the same period last year. The broker said a favorable market backdrop helped investment banking revenues more than double to 82 million pounds and the outlook remained promising.

“The pipeline is strong,” co-Chief Executive Officers Alex Ham and Ross Mitchinson said in the statement. “The outlook for the second half is encouraging.”

Blog: Brexit and Boris go hand in hand to land Hartlepool –

The Hartlepool by-election is a Brexit story.

Britain’s Conservative Party has taken the constituency for the first time since it was created almost 50 years ago.

This constituency voted heavily for Brexit in the 2016 referendum – 69%, compared with the national vote of 52% in favour.

In the 2019 General Election, it was the place where the Brexit Party came closest to winning a seat. Party Chairman Richard Tice chose it as the place to make his stand. He pulled in 26% of the vote – not bad for a wealthy businessman in a post-industrial coastal town in the northeast of England.

But Brexit is a powerful force, certainly in Hartlepool.

The Labour candidate in 2019 won the seat with 38%, and the Conservatives got 29%.

That was the Brexit election, the one that gave Boris Johnson his “stonking great majority” in support of his “oven ready” Brexit deal (Northern Ireland protocol and all). So when that majority passed the Brexit withdrawal agreement a few weeks later, it brought a natural end to the Brexit party, which has lost its raison d’etre.

With no Brexit Party this time, the question was always going to be where are those pro-Brexit votes going to go? For the Conservatives, the party that delivered Brexit, the answer was obvious – “they are going to go to us”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson campaigning with Conservative Party candidate Jill Mortimer in Hartlepool

That’s why Boris Johnson visited the constituency three times during the campaign – that’s three visits more than he paid to the whole of Scotland during the same campaign period.

Labour may have undermined itself in its choice of candidate. Dr Paul Williams had lost his seat in another constituency in the 2019 election. He was an ardent remainer, someone who wanted the UK to stay part of the European Union. The Tories saw this as a weakness in a very pro-Brexit constituency, and set about exploiting it.

And that meant bigging up Boris Johnson. Not only was he the Prime Minister who had delivered Brexit, but he was also the Prime Minster who had delivered the fastest vaccine roll-out of any major country. And the party and government had been saying for months it could not have been done if the UK was part of the EU. This was a clear Brexit dividend for the people. A poll at the start of April indicated the Conservatives could win the seat, and the party piled in resources.

Clearly Brexit had become a big issue in this constituency.

But there was no certainty they would win those loose Brexit party votes. Back in the 2017 General Election (Theresa May’s snap poll to get a mandate for Brexit that instead left her reliant on the DUP), the UKIP vote – for that was their name then – slumped by about 4,000, while the Labour vote went up by even more, leaving its candidate topping the poll with a 52% share. The Conservative vote went up as well, leaving them in second place with 34% compared with UKIP’s 11.5%.

But that was after the referendum. The expectation among Brexit supporters was that the government would deliver what they had voted for – emphatically voted for in the case of Hartlepool. Remember, 69% voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum in that constituency.

The year before, in the 2015 General Election, UKIP delivered a shock to the Tories, pushing them into third place. While Labour won, as usual, it was with 35%, UKIP got 28% and the Tories 20%.

Clearly Brexit had become a big issue in this constituency. In 2005, UKIP had scored 3.5%, in the 2010 General Election it had doubled that to 7%. Then a fourfold boost to 28% in 2015. In between those two elections was the financial crisis, and a lot of austerity budgeting by the Conservatives. Then came the referendum.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson recorded Labour’s biggest win in Hartlepool in 1997

So in the past three general elections, the Labour majority was 3,000, then 7,000, then 3,000 again. And the waxing and waning of the Brexit Party/UKIP accounted for the volatility. Now, with The Conservatives as the only “Brexit” party in the race, the planets had aligned for Labour’s eclipse.

Hartlepool has been a Labour stronghold since it was first carved out as a constituency in 1974. Labour MP Edward Leadbitter first held the seat from 1974 to 1992 before Peter Mandelson, a key figure in the New Labour movement, was parachuted in in the early 90s. He delivered Labour’s biggest win here – a 60% share in the 1997 Labour landslide that brought Tony Blair to power. Mandelson later became Northern Ireland Secretary, and then EU trade Commissioner in 2004, which triggered a by-election.

Iain Wright (the MP; not the footballer) won the by-election that year, holding the seat until he quit in 2017. But UKIP scored 10% in that election, just shading it over the Tories – and this at a time when the Blair government was becoming unpopular.

As American political operatives like to say, when you are explaining, you are losing.

Most recently, Mike Hill had represented Hartlepool in the Houses of Parliament from then until March 2021, when he resigned after facing sexual harassment claims – which he denies. This year’s Labour candidate, Dr Williams, a local NHS employee, was also criticised by Tory MPs for his alleged role in removing services from Hartlepool hospital in 2013. Although the doctor rejected these criticisms when speaking with the Hartlepool Mail recently, blaming government cutbacks.

“The Tories cut funding to the NHS and at the time I was trying to get the best possible deal for my patients”, he said. “It was the only decision because of Tory funding cuts to the NHS, the only safe decision for Hartlepool patients, but we’ll get those services back,” he told the paper.

But as American political operatives like to say, when you are explaining, you are losing.

Trying to fight on the slippery terrain of the local hospital is always hard (ask any politician anywhere). Trying to do so whilst dodging the rounds from a big bazooka marked Brexit proved impossible for Dr Hill.

This is just one Parliamentary by-election, a snapshot of a particular time in a particular place. But it will be used ruthlessly by the Conservatives to beat up Kier Starmer and the Labour Party. Expect similar tactics to be employed anywhere else in England the Conservative party think there is the slightest sniff of a win. In other words, north of England seats where there was a big pro-Brexit vote in the referendum, and a significant UKIP/Brexit Party vote too.

Where those target seats may be should become clearer over the coming days, as local election results in various parts of England trickle in. But nearby areas in the northeast, such as Durham and Sunderland will be closely watched.

Blog: Colin Brazier picks hole in Brexit doom-mongering as he highlights UK success – Daily Express

Brexit: UK removing ‘unnecessary EU laws’ says expert

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The GB News presenter shared an article from Neil MacKinnon which highlighted how the “doom-mongering” Remainers have been proven wrong in regards to the “assessment of the UK economy” in a post-Brexit Britain.

Sharing a quote from the article, Mr Brazier tweeted: “Remainers have been proven consistently wrong in the doom-mongering assessment of the UK economy.

“Virtually none of us who work in the City have moved to Frankfurt, which remains essentially a provincial banking centre.”

In his article in Cap X, Mr MacKinnon went on to say how Brexit is “opening up new opportunities” for the financial and other sectors.

He continued: “If anything, Brexit is opening up new opportunities for the financial and other sectors, especially in exciting trade opportunities outside the EU.

Colin Brazier picks hole in Brexit doom-mongering

Colin Brazier picks hole in Brexit doom-mongering (Image: Sky News)

Remainers mocked for doom-mongering

Remainers mocked for doom-mongering (Image: Getty)

“The UK, post-Brexit, looks exciting.

“The global economy continues to evolve and change while the EU seems stuck in a rut weighed down by an inward-looking, self-serving bureaucracy.

“Of course, there is a huge amount we can do to improve our own economy, which is far from perfect.

“But the last year should give us the confidence to chart our own course towards a prosperous future for all.”

READ MORE: Andrew Adonis hails ‘watershed moment’ as big as Brexit referendum

Boris Johnson signed a Brexit deal in December

Boris Johnson signed a Brexit deal in December (Image: Getty)

He continued: “Getting those decisions right, free of EU restrictions, is what will make the UK economy attractive for investment and employment.

“Contrary to what some Remainers might have you believe, a fall in the number of EU migrants is not going to capsize the UK economy.”

Mr MacKinnon went on to claim the UK’s successful vaccine rollout has restored confidence in the public in a post-Brexit Britain.

He continued: “Similarly, the UK implemented monetary and fiscal measures that are now starting to bear fruit.

EU shamed as campaigner lashes out at bloc for Jersey fishing blockade [INSIGHT] 
French warships arrive in Jersey for showdown with Royal Navy [REVEAL] 
Jersey blockade: Brexiteer says Boris must be ready to act [COMMENT]

Five key moments that led to Brexit

Five key moments that led to Brexit (Image: Express)

“The economy is picking up and consumers and firms are much more optimistic.

“The UK vaccination programme and the Government’s response has played a large part in restoring confidence, with the economy now recovering strongly, boosted by a buoyant housing market and the £100billion or so that British companies have saved up during the pandemic.

“Investment and tax incentives put in place by the Chancellor have also helped, and the UK is already a leader in new technologies that do not always get the media coverage they deserve.”

To date, more than 34,000,000 people in the UK have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Michel Barnier admitted the EU vaccine rollout was slow

Michel Barnier admitted the EU vaccine rollout was slow (Image: Getty)

More than 15,000,000 have received their second jab.

In comparison, the total number of vaccine doses administered across the bloc has just surpassed 150,000,000.

This week, the EU’s former Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the bloc was slower to act with the vaccine rollout as all 27 member states had to act as one.

He said: “It is true that there were mistakes at the start – why? Because we wanted to decide for 27 and not on our own.

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen (Image: Getty)

“It is easier to decide on our own, rather than as 27, especially since we didn’t have that expertise in Europe.

“This is one of the lessons to be learned. Perhaps there are issues in Europe where it will be necessary to hand over the decision-making to the country, or to the region.”

He added: “We don’t know how to take risks.

“The British took risks by financing the private sector.

“The Americans took risks. We don’t know how to do that yet.”

Blog: Watch – ‘Peak Brexit’ as Jersey Militia reenactment group fires on French boats with musket – The London Economic

France has despatched two patrol boats to Jersey as tensions continued to rise in the dispute over post-Brexit fishing rights. It comes after the Royal Navy sailed ships to the Channel Island, as the argument over post Brexit fishing rights boils over.

French maritime minister Annick Girardin has said The French Government would cut off electricity to Jersey – which gets 95 per cent of its power supply from France – if the dispute is not sorted out.

Agence France-Presse reported the two police vessels had been sent after Britain deployed a pair of Royal Navy vessels to the Channel Island.

Earlier dozens of French fishing boats gathered off the Jersey capital, St Helier, amid fears they were preparing to blockade the harbour.

Jersey’s external relations minister, Ian Gorst, said he would be speaking to the French fishermen in an attempt to defuse the worsening row.

“It’s important that we respond to threats, but the answer to this solution is to continue to talk and diplomacy,” he told BBC News.

HMS Severn and HMS Tamar have been deployed by the UK Government to “monitor the situation”.


Sending the Navy into the area has raised criticisms from some on social media.

One user Tweeted: “It took centuries of war between rival nations to get the peace that our generations have taken so much for granted. Yes the fishing thing will blow over, but none of this benefits us – the only winners are the populist politicians reaping opportunity and power from the chaos.”

If that wasn’t enough a member of the Jersey Militia reenactment group was seen firing on the French boats with a musket from Elizabeth Castle this morning. It’s after the flotilla of French fishermen who blockaded Jersey’s main harbour returned to open water.

Have you ever seen a more Brexity moment?

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Related: Reaction as Johnson sends gunboats to Jersey to ‘de-escalate tensions’

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Blog: Covid Testing Has Turned Into a Financial Windfall for Hospitals and Other Providers – Kaiser Health News

Pamela Valfer needed multiple covid tests after repeatedly visiting the hospital last fall to see her mother, who was being treated for cancer. Beds there were filling with covid patients. Valfer heard the tests would be free.

So, she was surprised when the testing company billed her insurer $250 for each swab. She feared she might receive a bill herself. And that amount is toward the low end of what some hospitals and doctors have collected.

Hospitals are charging up to $650 for a simple, molecular covid test that costs $50 or less to run, according to Medicare claims analyzed for KHN by Hospital Pricing Specialists (HPS). Charges by large health systems range from $20 to $1,419 per test, a new national survey by KFF shows. And some free-standing emergency rooms are charging more than $1,000 per test.

Authorities were saying “get tested, no one’s going to be charged, and it turns out that’s not true,” said Valfer, a professor of visual arts who lives in Pasadena, California. “Now on the back end it’s being passed onto the consumer” through high charges to insurers, she said. The insurance company passes on its higher costs to consumers in higher premiums.

As the pandemic enters its second year, no procedure has been more frequent than tests for the virus causing it. Gargantuan volume — 400 million tests and counting, for one type — combined with loose rules on prices have made the service a bonanza for hospitals and clinics, new data shows.

Lab companies have been booking record profits by charging $100 per test. Even in-network prices negotiated and paid by insurance companies often run much more than that and, according to one measure, have been rising on average in recent months.

Insurers and other payers “have no bargaining power in this game” because there is no price cap in some situations, said Ge Bai, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who has studied test economics. When charges run far beyond the cost of the tests “it’s predatory,” she said. “It’s price gouging.”

The data shows that covid tests continue to generate high charges from hospitals and clinics despite alarms raised by insurers, anecdotal reports of high prices and pushback from state regulators.

The listed charge for a basic PCR covid test at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles is $480. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital lists $440 as the gross charge as well as the cash price. Those amounts are far above the $159 national average for the diagnostic test, which predominated during the first year of the pandemic, at more than 3,000 hospitals checked by HPS.

That’s the amount billed to insurance companies, not what patients pay, Cedars spokesperson Cara Martinez said in an email.

“Patients themselves do not face any costs” for the tests, she said. “The amounts we charge [insurers] for medical care are set to cover our operating costs,” capital needs and other items, she said.

Likewise at NewYork-Presbyterian, charges not covered by insurance “are not passed along to patients,” the hospital said.

Many hospitals and labs follow the Medicare reimbursement rate, $100 for results within two days from high-volume tests. But there are outliers. Insurers oftentimes negotiate lower prices within their networks, although not for labs and testing options outside their purview.

Billing by hospitals and clinics from outside insurance company networks can be especially lucrative because the government requires insurers to pay their posted covid-test price with no limit. Regulation for out-of-network vaccine charges, by contrast, is stricter. Charges for vaccines must be “reasonable,” according to federal regulations, with relatively low Medicare prices as a possible guideline.

“There’s a problem with the federal law” on test prices, said Sabrina Corlette, co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University. “The CARES Act requires insurers to pay the full billed charge to the provider. Unless they’ve negotiated, their hands are tied.”

But even in-network payments can be highly profitable.

Optim Medical Center in Tattnall, Georgia, part of a chain of orthopedic practices and medical centers, collects $308 per covid test from two insurers, its price list shows. Yale New Haven Hospital collects $182 from one insurer and $173 from another.

Yale New Haven’s prices resulted from existing insurer agreements addressing unspecified new procedures such as the covid test, said Patrick McCabe, senior vice president of finance for Yale New Haven Health.

“We didn’t negotiate” specifically on covid tests, he said. “We’re not trying to take advantage of a crisis here.”

Officials from Optim Medical Center did not respond to queries from KHN.

Castlight Health, which provides benefits and health care guidance to more than 60 Fortune 500 companies, analyzed for KHN the costs of 1.1 million covid tests billed to insurers from March 2020 through this February. The analysis found an average charge of $90, with less than 1% of bills passing any cost along to the patient. Since last March, the average cost has gone up from $63 to as high as $97 per test in December before declining to $89 in February, the most recent results available.

In some cases, hospitals and clinics have supplemented revenue from covid tests with extra charges that go far beyond those for a simple swab.

Warren Goldstein was surprised when Austin Emergency Center, in Texas, charged him and his wife $494 upfront for two covid tests. He was shocked when the center billed insurance $1,978 for his test, which he expected would cost $100. His insurer paid $325 for “emergency services” for him, even though there was no emergency.

“It seemed like highway robbery,” said Goldstein, a New York professor who was visiting his daughter and grandchild in Texas at the time.

Austin Emergency Center has been the subject of previous reports of high covid-test prices.

The center provides “high-quality health care emergency services” and “our charges are set at the price that we believe reflects this quality of care,” said Heather Neale, AEC’s chief operating officer. The law requires the center to examine every patient “to determine whether or not an emergency medical condition exists,” she said.

Curative, the lab company that billed $250 for Valfer’s PCR tests, said through a spokesperson that its operating costs are higher than those of other providers and that consumers will never be billed for charges insurance doesn’t cover. Valfer’s insurer paid $125 for each test, claims documents show.

Even at relatively low prices, testing companies are reaping high profits. Covid PCR tests sold for $100 apiece helped Quest Diagnostics increase revenue by 49% in the first quarter of 2021 and quadruple its profits compared with the same period a year ago.

“We are expecting … to still do quite well in terms of reimbursement in the near term,” Quest CFO Mark Guinan said during a recent earnings call.

Hospitals and clinics do pay tens of thousands of dollars upfront when purchasing analyzer machines, plus costs for chemical reagents, swabs and other collection materials, maintenance, and training and compensating staff members. But the more tests completed, the more cost-effective they are, said Marlene Sautter, director of laboratory services at Premier Inc., a group purchasing organization that works with 4,000 U.S. hospitals and health systems.

A World Health Organization cost assessment of running 5,000 covid tests on Roche and Abbott analyzers — not including that initial equipment price, labor or shipping costs — came to $17 and $21 per test, respectively.

Unlike earlier in the pandemic, lab-based PCR tests no longer dominate the market. Cheaper, rapid options can now be purchased online or in stores. In mid-April, some CVS, Walmart and Walgreens stores began selling a two-pack of Abbott Laboratories’ BinaxNOW antigen test for $23.99.

Regulations require insurers to cover covid testing administered or referred by a health care provider at no cost to the patient. But exceptions are made for public health surveillance and work- or school-related testing.

Claire Lemcke, who works for a Flagstaff, Arizona, nonprofit, was tested at a mall in January and received a statement from an out-of-state lab company saying that the price was $737, that it was performed out-of-network and that she would be responsible for paying. She’s working with her insurer, which has already paid $400, to try to get it settled.

Sticker shock from covid tests has gotten bad enough that Medicare set up a hotline for insurance companies to report bad actors, and states across the country are taking action.

Free-standing emergency centers across Texas, like the one Goldstein visited, have charged particularly exorbitant prices, propelling the Texas Association of Health Plans to write a formal complaint in late January. The 19-page letter details how many of these operations violate state disclosure requirements, charge over $1,000 per covid test and add thousands more in facility fees associated with the visit.

These free-standing ERs are “among the worst offenders when it comes to price gouging, egregious billing, and providing unnecessary care and tests,” the letter says.

In December, the Kansas Insurance Department investigated a lab whose cash price was listed at nearly $1,000. State legislatures in both Minnesota and Connecticut have introduced bills to crack down on price gouging since the pandemic began.

“If these astronomical costs charged by unscrupulous providers are borne by the health plans and insurers without recompense, consumers will ultimately pay more for their health care as health insurance costs will rise,” Justin McFarland, Kansas Insurance Department’s general counsel, wrote in a Dec. 16 letter.

Blog: Northern Ireland firms have taken a hit from the end of Brexit transition period – Belfast Telegraph

The majority of Northern Ireland manufacturers have been negatively impacted by the end of the Brexit transition period, according to a fresh survey.

nd around 93% of manufacturers say they have seen a rise in the cost of raw materials.

However, many manufacturers are continuing to see growth, despite the challenges they face.

The latest Tughans Manufacturing NI Survey, conducted by Perceptive Insight, shows that some 77% of companies have “experienced a negative impact on their business since the Brexit transition period ended”.

However, around 59% of those surveyed said they are in growth mode.

Among the biggest obstacles for firms remains the issue of disruption in supply chains, followed by wider global economic conditions.

“A sizeable number, 36%, believe the difficulties are likely to persist, however,” Manufacturing NI chief executive, Stephen Kelly, says.

“What almost half of the businesses surveyed are telling us is that the NI Executive must identify and secure new opportunities to support them.

“We have seen from the survey that 86% of firms have increased input costs on transportation and 66% want the government to cut employment related costs to support the sector.”

And although Covid-19 continues to affect manufacturing businesses, the survey reveals that the sector is showing signs of recovery compared to July 2020.

At 17%, fewer than one in five of those surveyed described their business as reducing or contracting compared to 42% previously. And 48% are experiencing growth, compared to 23% previously.

Increased expenditure on raw materials has been experienced by 93% of manufacturers and 37% said disrupted supply chains are the biggest obstacle to their firms’ recovery.

As for the future, 45% of businesses expect that the sector will see growth in the next 12 months, compared to 15% that expect continued weakness.

At 48%, less than half believe their productivity will improve in 2021. However, 44% expect their profit margins to deteriorate in 2021 relative to the previous 12 months, although 35% expect to see improvement.

Northern Ireland’s top three manufacturing sectors include machinery and equipment, rubber, plastic and other non-metallic mineral products and wood, paper and printing.

James Donnelly, head of corporate at Tughans, says despite the challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit, there is a good sense of optimism at present.

“Despite everything, many of our clients in the manufacturing sector have reported a relatively strong performance in the last year.

“There is positivity with many expecting growth and this is reflected in clients’ future plans in relation to recruitment, investment and transactions.”

UK-wide surveys have reported growing optimism in the manufacturing sector.

The latest CBI quarterly industrial trends survey last month said optimism in the three months to April improved at its quickest pace since April 1971.

The survey of nearly 300 manufacturers found that more firms than had been the case last year expected to increase spending on items like buildings, plant and machinery.

Belfast Telegraph

Blog: Brexit LIVE: Bitter John Bercow turns on UK over Jersey – says stunt timed for election – Daily Express

The former Speaker of the House of Commons, widely blamed by Brexiteers for delaying the process of the UK exiting the European Union during his time in the position, did not hold back during his appearance on BBC1’s Question Time. Mr Bercow said: “It’s an absurd act of gunboat diplomacy, it’s a bit of jingoistic sabre rattling.

“And if you tell me or anybody does tonight, that the despatch of those ships, and the fact of election day to day are unrelated, I can say only that you won’t believe anything.

“It’s juvenile, it’s down market, it’s not constructive, it doesn’t advance the cause of the arguments that need to be resolved.”

Characteristically, Mr Bercow also tied the decision to the UK’s departure from the bloc, adding: “And the truth of the matter is that the problem flows as so many things persistently do from Brexit.

READ MORE: Hartlepool result: Conservatives WIN by-election in blow to Starmer

“And with the detail with the interstices of the system with the specifics negotiators have to deal with, it isn’t going to be addressed by a kind of Palmerstonian populism.

“And, frankly, Britain can do better than that.”

Diplomatic efforts with France will be stepped up to prevent a repeat of the Jersey fishing dispute, which saw French fishing boats threaten to blockade the harbour yesterday before pulling back.

The Royal Navy will continue to keep a watch on events but the two vessels deployed to the Channel Island were ordered back to port after the French protest ended.


Museum of Brexit gets its first items – but when will it open? [INSIGHT]
EU ‘badgers’ UK to pay up settlements of Brexit divorce bill [REVEAL]
Brexit doom mongers dismantled as UK confidence up [SPOTLIGHT]

7.41am update:

A lung cancer drug has become the first treatment authorised under an international scheme the UK was able to join after Brexit.

The nation was signed up to the US-led Project Orbis in January to work with other countries to review and approve promising cancer ­medicines quickly and efficiently.

Hundreds of patients are now expected to benefit from the new post-surgery treatment.

The UK’s involvement was revealed by the Daily Express in October, when Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced “teaming up with the fastest regulators in the world to get safe licences as fast as the science allows”.

Blog: Council accused of ‘misleading’ remarks over DUP-advised NI Protocol letter – Belfast Live

A DUP mayor and council boss have been accused of making “misleading” remarks at a Stormont committee after claiming a controversial NI Protocol letter received unanimous cross-party support.

Mid and East Antrim mayor Peter Johnston and council chief executive Anne Donaghy said her DUP-advised letter to the UK government was endorsed by councillors during a meeting on Tuesday.

However, it is understood the letter was only included within the appendices of a 52-page documents pack sent to councillors just hours before the meeting.

The pack related to a proposal to take legal advice around establishing which department is responsible for the funding of Brexit checks at Larne Port.

Councillors discussed the matter behind closed doors. A proposal to defer a decision due to it being raised at short notice was voted down.

Mr Johnston and Ms Donaghy returned to the Assembly’s agriculture committee on Thursday to answer questions over her letter to the Cabinet Office sent on the advice of three DUP MPs.

The confidential letter, dated January 30, had not been disclosed to the inquiry when they attended last month, with Ms Donaghy insisting it was “not relevant”.

But she faced calls to “consider her position” after Belfast Live later revealed the full contents of the correspondence.

It included security concerns over Larne Port and questions on the impact of Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit arrangements on the “principles of consent enshrined in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement”.

The council and Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots temporarily withdrew Brexit staff from Larne and Belfast ports on February 1 over threat fears following the appearance of graffiti.

MLAs are probing the decision after police said there was no evidence of “credible threats” or the involvement of loyalist paramilitaries.

Ms Donaghy defended her letter, saying it would be “dereliction of my duty not to keep highlighting” governance issues around the ports.

She told MLAs she sought advice from two MPs from the council area, Sammy Wilson and Ian Paisley, on who would be the most appropriate senior official to “engage with on these serious issues”.

She said they directed her to their colleague Jeffrey Donaldson, who gave her a name to contact in the Cabinet Office.

Mr Johnston told MLAs the letter “got cross-party unanimous support” at Tuesday’s council meeting, while Ms Donaghy also said it had “unanimous cross-party agreement”.

Sinn Fein councillor James McKeown disputed the claim.

He said: “It is misleading to say that the decision on Tuesday night was an endorsement of that letter.

“It was an endorsement of trying to find out who was actually responsible for funding the staff at the harbour and that’s the way it was presented to us. There was no mention of the letter.

“And when it was brought up – I think it was brought up twice – it was closed down because of her appearance today.”

Alliance councillor Danny Donnelly said: “Both the mayor and chief executive have alluded to all parties backing the letter, but did not mention the circumstances in which it was provided to councillors, being among 52 pages of evidence uploaded at short notice before the meeting.

“Whilst the report in question did receive unanimous approval, at no point did councillors approve the documentation alongside it. To suggest anything different is extremely disappointing.”

A Mid and East Antrim spokesman said: “Council stands by the evidence presented to the committee.”