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A secret ballot is due to be held by the EU to determine which Member State will be the next host for the EMA and the EBA. Both the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Banking Authority (EBA) are currently based in London with the EU bosses seeking a quick decision on the next host for both of these lucrative organisations. Both the EMA and EBA attract thousands of visitors each year thereby boosting the local economy, in particular hotels and restaurants in the city. In 2015, the EMA alone attracted 36,000 visitors which included scientists and health professionals. Between them, both agencies employ over 1,000 staff, and the EMA has an annual budget of £277 million.

Since the UK’s decision to leave the EU in the June 2016 referendum, a number of cities in the EU have vied to be the next host to the EMA and the EBA, both often referred to as the crown jewels of the EU.

Member States may bid for both agencies but will only be granted permission to host one, with the EMA considered to be the more desired of the two, since it is the top drugs regulator in the EU. The EU will assess each bid against a strict set of criteria including airport access and local schools. Following the vote and decision, the new host city will start preparing to host the agencies by the day UK finally exits the EU, in 2019.

The contenders:

Member States such as the Spanish regulator are already in the race, with the Spanish Health Minister Dolors Montserrat outlining the case for Barcelona as a desired location for the EMA, during a visit to Brussels “Barcelona is ready to host the EMA now. No-one is offering a better combination of location, facilities, services and a high quality of life from both a professional and social perspective than Barcelona”.

Other contenders in the bidding process include Milan, Copenhagen and Dublin. Each Member State must be able to satisfy the EU they have adequate facilities to house the agencies, similar to the current EMA and EBA headquarters in the UK. The EBA is based in Canary Wharf occupying 2, 345 square meters of office space on the 40th floor of a skyscraper.

The potential hosts for the EBA include Paris and Frankfurt as well as Brussels and Vienna. This relocation out of the UK will leave a regulatory vacuum for the Pharmaceutical industry and only the Brexit negotiations will clarify the UK’s future relationship with the EU once negotiations start in earnest, prior to the divorce scheduled for March 2019.

The timelines:

The deadline for Member States to submit their bids is 31 July 2017 and a final decision was due to be announced in October. However, the EMA have just announced that the final decision will be taken at a meeting of the heads of state or government from the 27 Member States after 29 March 2019. This delay has prompted the industry to raise concerns. The decision as to the location of the EMA and EBA will also be taken at this meeting.