London loses European Medicines Agency in Brexit relocation | The Guardian |
London is losing the European Medicines Agency to Amsterdam, European ministers have decided, in one of the first concrete signs of Brexit as the UK prepares to leave the bloc in 18 months' time.
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Pedestrians walk past the European Medicines Agency, which employs 900 people in Canary Wharf, London. Photo: Bloomberg/Getty
The EU's 27 European affairs ministers, minus the UK, took less than three hours to decide the new home of the agency, which employs 900 people in Canary Wharf, London.
After a five-month beauty contest, Amsterdam beat competition from 18 cities ranging from fancied contenders such as Copenhagen and Bratislava to outsiders such as Bucharest and Sofia.
In a second secret ballot, EU ministers will decide on the new home of the European Banking Authority, which employs 150 people, also in Canary Wharf.
The British government was powerless to stop the relocation of these two prized regulatory bodies, secured by previous Conservative prime ministers. The Department for Exiting the European Union had claimed the future of the agencies would be subject to the Brexit negotiations, a claim that caused disbelief in Brussels.
Speaking before the vote on Monday, the EU's chief negotiator on Brexit, Michel Barnier, said "ardent advocates of Brexit" had contradicted themselves on EU rules.
"Brexit means Brexit," he said, turning Theresa May's line back on her. "The same people who argue for setting the UK free also argue that the UK should remain in some EU agencies. But freedom implies responsibility for building new UK administrative capacity," he told a Brussels conference hosted by the Centre for European Reform.
"The 27 will continue to deepen the work of those agencies, together," he said. "They will share the costs for running those agencies. Our businesses will benefit from their expertise. All of their work is firmly based on the EU treaties which the UK decided to leave."
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) opened in 1995, having been secured for London by John Major's government. Seen as one of the EU's most important agencies, it carries out assessments and issues approvals for medicines across the union. The agency is also a boon for hoteliers, as 36,000 scientists and regulators visit each year.