Ministers criticise UK assumption that it could retain key EU agencies after Brexit

Ireland keen to attract European Medicines Agency and European Banking Authority

European Banking Authority: the Government believes the old Central Bank building could accommodate the authority’s  220 staff. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

European Banking Authority: the Government believes the old Central Bank building could accommodate the authority’s 220 staff. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

 

Senior Government figures have criticised the UK’s attempts to retain two big European Union agencies in London after Brexit.

Two Ministers yesterday confirmed that the Republic of Ireland was competing to be the future home of the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority. The British government’s department for exiting the European Union, headed by David Davis, had claimed that the future location of the agencies would be decided during Brexit negotiations.

Government sources in Dublin insisted it was not a matter for the UK to decide, pointing to last month’s EU draft negotiation plan, which said arrangements should be made to transfer the bodies to a state staying in the union.

“There is no way the European Union would allow the British retain two key agencies when it made the decision to leave the EU. It just will not happen,” one senior Irish figure said.

EU officials also say there is no question of the UK keeping the medicines agency, which monitors the safety of drugs across Europe, and the banking authority, which co-ordinates EU banking rules. Officials expect the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, to outline this month the procedures and criteria for making the decision about relocating the agencies, which most of the 27 remaining member states have expressed interest in hosting. The Republic is one of four countries officially competing to attract both agencies.

A decision on the location of the European Medicines Agency is expected to be made this year; a position on the European Banking Authority is expected to be taken towards the end of Brexit negotiations.

European leaders are anxious to ease uncertainty for existing staff and allow time for recruitment and the putting in place of infrastructure in other cities before the UK leaves the EU, in March 2019.

Government figures have already begun assessing locations for the two organisations. The medicines agency was originally earmarked for Co Cork, but it has since been agreed that both would be accommodated in Dublin were the Republic to be chosen as their new home. The Government believes the old Central Bank of Ireland building on Dame Street could facilitate the banking authority, which has 220 staff.

Minister of State for Financial Services Eoghan Murphy said he believed the Republic had a strong chance of ensuring the authority came here. “It is our aim to be seen as a global location for financial services, and securing the EBA would be a significant boost in us achieving that.”

The European Medicines Agency is much larger, with more than 900 staff. Minister for Health Simon Harris said that it was extremely important to minimise the impact of relocation and that Dublin could provide a seamless transition. “Dublin would prove very attractive to EMA staff and their families and maximise the retention of existing staff,” he said. “We are also an English-speaking location, and English is the working language of the EMA and the pharmaceutical industry.”