The European Parliament on Wednesday called for an agreement to be reached “as quickly as possible” to relocate the headquarters of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) following the UK’s decision to exit the EU.
The question of where to relocate the nearly 900 EMA staffers from London (EMA has already said member states will decide) will not be an easy one, particularly as virtually every member state has requested to be the new home for the agency. Ireland, Croatia, Malta, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Hungary, Bulgaria and the Netherlands have all made public their interest in housing the agency.
But Sir Kent Woods, former EMA chairman of the board and former chief executive of the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), told Focus that the headquarters’ move is not mandated by EU law.
“It is in the interests of the global pharmaceutical and devices industries, and of the public health, that there is continuity during the transition. There is, for example, no reason in EU law why the EMA must be located in a Member State; any move will be disruptive if it results in losses of staff and expertise,” he said.
EMA currently includes 50 British staff and it remains unclear how UK expertise will be utilized at the agency once the Brexit negotiations are finalized over the next two years.
“It will be politically difficult to re-set the regulatory arrangements which have been progressively developed over the past 20 years (and which generally work efficiently and well). The UK has been a leading contributor to that development and carries out a major share of product assessments, vigilance, inspections, trial authorisation etc.,” Woods told Focus.
“There is also a larger agenda which has been emerging over several years for closer working between regulatory authorities at a global level. European solutions need to be seen in the perspective of where we would want to be globally in five years' time,” he added.
European Parliament resolution of 5 April 2017 on negotiations with the United Kingdom following its notification that it intends to withdraw from the European Union