Harris looks to woo European Medicines Agency to Dublin

Minister suggests two ‘world class’ office spaces if facility chooses Dublin post-Brexit

Minister for Health Simon Harris has suggested two "world-class" office spaces in Dublin and pointed to the city's communications technology in an attempt to woo European Union dignitaries deciding on the location of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) after Brexit.

Mr Harris was addressing EU ambassadors and diplomats in Brussels on Friday as the Government officially launched its campaign to make the case for Dublin when the agency, which houses more than 900 staff, leaves the UK.

The leaders of the 27 remaining EU states are meeting on Saturday to decide on the negotiating mandate for the union going into talks with the British, which are expected to begin in the coming weeks.

The relocation of the facility will be discussed at the meeting and it is expected that timelines and a process for its relocation will be outlined. Mr Harris launched the official emadublin.ie website and bid brochure during his speech.

“The EMA is facing a number of challenges in light of Brexit, chief among which is the likely significant loss of expert staff and disruption to its operations,” he said. “The loss of expertise in particular could severely impact the vital work undertaken by the agency.

“For example, any decrease in the EMA’s ability to function as it does now would hamper the research, development, trialling and authorisation of novel medicines, as well as access for patients.

“I am absolutely convinced that relocating the EMA to Dublin is the best choice in this regard. I say this not only for Dublin or Ireland but as genuinely the best choice for Europe.”

Key benefits

In terms of the advantages Dublin has to offer the EMA, Mr Harris outlined a number of key benefits.

“Firstly, I believe it will prove to be a popular location for current and future staff, thus contributing to the retention of expertise within the EMA,” he said. “As I noted, the retention of expertise is a vitally important issue in the context of relocation.

"Ireland's national medicines agency, the Health Products Regulatory Authority, already provides significant support to the EMA and this can be rapidly scaled up in the event of relocation.

“Dublin offers excellent air connectivity with many EU capitals and internationally. The airport itself is only 20 minutes from the city centre which is a significant benefit.

“Dublin is the only capital city in Europe with US pre-clearance facilities and with the EMA’s strong focus on international co-operation this is another reason why Dublin must be seen as an efficient and workable solution.”

On office and hotel accommodation, Mr Harris said the Government had identified a number of options. One is in the north docklands adjacent to the city centre, while a second option is described as a “vibrant new commercial district” at Dublin Airport.

“These are world-class office solutions that can accommodate all EMA requirements and will be available to the EMA by 2019,” said Mr Harris.

“Dublin also has an excellent reputation when it comes to ICT connectivity, again as demonstrated by the range of internationally renowned tech companies headquartered in the various hubs around the city.

“The strong life sciences sector in Ireland, which is home to many of the leading biopharmaceutical companies, presents opportunities for synergies between industry, research and regulation.

“Dublin has the advantage of being a primarily English-speaking environment and this is helpful as English is the working language of the EMA and the pharmaceutical industry.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter