At the EU Summit in Brussels on Thursday, the European Council backed a procedure to determine where the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will be relocated to following the UK's withdrawal from the EU.
And, while previous reports had indicated the decision on where EMA will end up would be made by October 2017, the procedure adopted by the Council instead calls for a vote by the 27 EU member states, minus the UK (EU27), in November to give more time for member states to discuss the moves.
Following the meeting, European Council President Donald Tusk applauded the adoption of the procedure by the EU27 leaders.
"The quick agreement on this was another confirmation of our unity and determination to reduce the uncertainty caused by Brexit," he said.
Under the procedure, member states can submit proposals to host EMA until 31 July, which the European Commission will assess based on the criteria established by the procedure. In particular, the procedure says potential hosts should be able to provide "appropriate" offices that are near an airport that offers convenient flights from the capitals of the other member states and have adequate multi-lingual schools for the children of agency staff.
Then, following a "political discussion" of the Commission's assessment in October, the EU27 ministers will vote on where EMA will reside going forward at the General Affairs Council meeting in November.
For the vote itself, each of the 27 member states will be able to choose their top three picks to host the agency, with three points going to the first choice, two to the second and one to the third.
If a host fails to secure 14 first choice votes in the first round of voting, the three member states that received the most points will move on to the second round of votes.
In the second round, a simple majority of 14 votes will determine the host. If a majority is not reached, then the two highest scoring proposals will move to a third round of voting which will also be decided by a majority vote. In the case of a tie in the third round, the decision will be made by drawing lots between the third round offers.