The move to Amsterdam, which the EMA has said is due to Brexit, comes after the medicines authority signed a 25-year lease in 2014 on its premises in London’s Canary Wharf district. The EMA has argued that Brexit amounts to an unforeseen event of “frustration” of the lease, which is a potential legal get-out.
Property owner Canary Wharf Ltd however, disagrees with this logic. They have now taken the case to court, asking a judge to enforce the lease. The outstanding bill for the remainder of the lease, including service charges and rates, is some £500 million.
A spokesman for Canary Wharf Ltd has said that:
“We feel that the EMA should continue to comply with their freely negotiated legal obligations, we have been working with the EMA for nine months to see if they can resolve the issue. However, we are seeking this declaration so that the EMA is clear that its lease obligations will not be affected by Brexit.”
A June 2017 European Commission position statement on the financial settlement, stated that the UK should cover the costs relating to the withdrawal process, including the relocation of agencies or other Union bodies.
However, the UK Government has not commented on the issue of relocation costs, and a financial settlement is a current issue in Brexit negotiations.
Given the annual budget of the EMA is £222 million, this is likely to be a big blow to the EMA budget.
However, the budget isn’t the only issue with the move. It has sparked controversy among drugmakers, which fear potential disruption to medicines regulation. It will require a significant redistribution of supervisory work, following the loss of UK experts from the regulatory system.
The EMA may now be forced to question whether the move out of London is necessary given it now looks like the costs to the taxpayer will be outweighing the benefits.