Amsterdam to become new home of the EMA following tied EU vote

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is to relocate from London to Amsterdam following the UK's departure from the EU.

Amsterdam has been chosen as the new home of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) when the UK finally leaves the EU. 19 cities had originally bid for the EMA and the final result was announced following three tense rounds of secret voting by the EU’s 27 European affairs ministers, minus the UK. Please see our earlier commentary on the EU’s relocation procedure here. Although it is understood that Milan was the frontrunner following the second round of voting, the two cities were tied following the final third round of voting. However, under the rules of the selection process, lots were drawn to decide the winner.

The Agency now has just over 16 months to prepare for the move and to establish its operations in Amsterdam by 30 March 2019 at the latest. Commenting on the result, Professor Guido Rasi, Executive Director of the EMA said, “We welcome today’s decision on the new location of the EMA. Now that we finally know where our journey is taking us, we can take concrete actions for a successful move.” It is understood that the EMA and the Netherlands will establish a joint governance structure to steer and oversee the relocation project. The EMA is set to publish a monitoring chart in December to enable stakeholders to track progress and keep up to date with developments as the agency transitions to its new home. The EMA’s announcement of its relocation can be read here.

There had been much uncertainty and speculation ahead of the announcement, with the EMA itself concerned that it may not be able to retain key highly-skilled staff, depending upon the location chosen. However, an internal survey had indicated that a large majority of EMA staff would be willing to move with the Agency to Amsterdam. Professor Rasi commented that, “Amsterdam ticks many of our boxes. It offers excellent connectivity and a building that can be shaped according to our needs. I am very grateful that the Member States took into account our requirements for business continuity and gave priority to the protection of public and animal health.”

Also commenting on the result, Mike Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) said, “Hosting the EMA is a singular honour for any city and we will do all we can to support the agency's smooth transition to its new home. Up to now the focus has inevitably been on the future location of the EMA. We now urge both the UK and the EU to put patients first and acknowledge that securing a comprehensive agreement to cooperate on medicines safety, regulation and supply is an urgent negotiating priority."

It is still unclear how the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will work alongside the EMA following Brexit. The majority of marketing authorisations are currently applied for under the decentralised procedure (national) or the centralised procedure (EU-wide) and so, following Brexit, it remains to be seen what system the UK will adopt (or be able to adopt) for marketing authorisation approval.

The EMA, which employs nearly 1000 people, has been based in its Canary Wharf home in London since it was established in 1995. In the same session, EU ministers voted to relocate the other UK-based agency, the European Banking Agency (EBA), to Paris after the favourite Frankfurt was eliminated in the second round of voting.

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