Battle looms over relocation of EU medicines agency

Sweden leads the bid, ahead of five other EU member states, for 900 London jobs looking certain to relocate when Brexit is complete.

900 EMA jobs to move following Brexit
Sweden believes it is the "most serious contender" among a half-dozen nations to be the new home of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), currently based in London but looking certain to relocate when the UK leaves the European Union.The agency works with individual regulatory authorities from all 31 European Economic Area member nations. Assuming it moves out of London when Brexit is complete, it would mean shifting 890 jobs currently located in Canary Wharf in East London.Additionally, the Japanese government warned this week that its pharmaceutical companies with operations in Britain would also be tempted to relocate staff abroad should the EMA's headquarters move.Anders Lönnberg, the Swedish government's life sciences coordinator, told The Times that a working group had already started preparing the case for EMA to move to Stockholm."You cannot have an agency for the EU if you are not a member. That is quite obvious," he said. Were Stockholm's bid to succeed, Mr Lönnberg added, "We get 900 jobs and a network of highly skilled researchers. It will help a lot with national healthcare."But although the Swedes are confident of luring the EMA, they face stiff competition in a bidding war also involving the Irish Republic, Spain, Denmark, Germany and Italy.Simon Harris, the Irish health minister, has pledged to press the case in Brussels for the relocation of the EMA to Dublin. “The minister has asked his officials to prepare for a bid to bring the EMA to Dublin. We will be making the case that Dublin offers significant advantages as a location, not least the advantage of the English language, a strong pharmaceutical and R&D sector presence,” a government spokesman said.Spain, meanwhile, is bidding to become the new home of either the EMA or the European Banking Authority, also headquartered in London.Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, Spain's deputy prime minister, said a working group had been formed in Madrid with the sole aim of attracting at least one of the London-headquartered organisations. "Both are of great interest to Spain and we will work on the possibility that at least one of them will be located on Spanish territory," she told the Financial Times.

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The agency said in a statement, “EMA welcomes the interest expressed by some member states to host the agency in future. The decision on the seat of the agency will, however, not be taken by EMA, but will be decided by common agreement among the representatives of the member states."We are confident that the member states will take the most appropriate decision on EMA's location and arrangements in due course, taking also into account the complex political and legal environment generated by the outcome of the UK referendum."Meanwhile, the Japanese government said in a document on the effects of Brexit, which was presented at this week's G20 summit in China, that the fact the EMA was located in London was crucial to the UK's appeal for high tech research."Many Japanese pharmaceutical companies are operating in London, due to the EMA's location in London," said the document. "If the EMA were to transfer to other EU member states, the appeal of London as an environment for the development of pharmaceuticals would be lost, which could possibly lead to a shift in the flow of R&D funds and personnel to continental Europe. This could force Japanese companies to reconsider their business activities."

For more information on how the UK's exit from the EU will affect global mobility and multinational companies, look out for the Autumn 2016 issue of Relocate magazine.

For more about the EU referendum and its impact worldwide see our Brexit section.