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Post-Brexit European Drugs Regulator Wooed by 19 Nations

Updated on
  • EU drugs, banking agencies to leave London after U.K. exit
  • Ministers to vote on new locations in November this year

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Nineteen cities from Amsterdam to Bucharest applied to host the European Union’s drugs regulator and eight sought to be the home of the bloc’s banking authority, kicking off a four-month campaign to win agencies being forced out of London by Brexit.

The list of locations wanting the European Medicines Agency also included Lille, Milan and Bonn, while Dublin, Frankfurt and Brussels are among those lobbying for the European Banking Authority, according to a statement posted on the European Council’s website on Tuesday. The European Commission will provide its assessment on Sept. 30, and EU governments will take a decision in November.

The process is an early indicator of what the U.K. stands to lose in its divorce from the EU, which will take effect in March 2019. The EMA, which evaluates applications for new drugs and monitors the safety of medicines, currently employs 900 people and draws 36,000 visitors a year to London from government, science and industry.

While the EU says that it intends to preserve a “geographical spread” of its agencies, the final decision is likely to be decided on political grounds rather than facilities. Big countries such as Germany are squaring up against more recent additions to the bloc, including Romania, which now lack EU agencies.

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has said he expects “intense competition” for the drugs regulator and calculated that the victor could enjoy a 1 billion-euro ($1.2 billion) lift. Pharmaceutical companies such as Novartis AG, Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson are among those pressing for a swift decision.

Still, the Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday that the EMA had told the European Parliament that 75 percent of its staff don’t want to leave London.

The EBA works to harmonize banking rules across Europe and has less than a quarter of the number of staff of the EMA. Frankfurt, home to European Central Bank as well as the EU insurance and pensions regulator, is the early front-runner.

The EU has already set out criteria to decide which country will host the agencies, including the office premises on offer, how accessible the location is for visitors, and how quickly the agency would be able to relocate and attract staff from relevant sectors.

The city chosen must also have adequate social security, medical care and education facilities for the children and families of the agencies’ staff. The applications will be published in full in the coming days.

— With assistance by Samuel Dodge

(Adds Telegraph report in sixth paragraph.)
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