The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has been thrust into the limelight in recent weeks after it became the focus a furious political scrap between Westminster and Brussels over the headquarters of EU agencies after Britain leaves the bloc.
Remain campaigners in the UK have said the fact that up to 1,000 jobs are at risk when eurocrats relocate the EMA and the European Banking Authority, which are both currently based in the British capital, shows the folly of Brexit.
But even though Britain hosts the medicines agency, and has done for 22 years, it does not provide it with the most staff. Figures show that UK employees make up only 63 out of its total workforce of 885, well behind the proportion boasted by Spain, Italy and France.
In January the Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb, a leading backer of the Open Britain campaign, said the relocation of the EMA “would mean 900 high quality British jobs being lost”.
The EBA does not publish a breakdown of the nationalities of its 159 officials, but does say that they come from 25 different member states meaning it employs at most 135 Britons. The organisation’s website lists precious few UK workers in senior positions, with none on its management board.
In a statement it says that there is “no national quota system in operation” when it comes to hiring staff, however that bosses are obliged to “ensure geographical balance” across the EU’s 28 member states within its workforce.
The revelations come after Brussels insisted this week that the UK would have “no choice” over the relocation of the two agencies after Brexit and that their futures were an EU issue that would play no part in the negotiations.
In a stinging rebuke to Brexit secretary David Davis, who has suggested the UK will fight to keep hold of the bodies even after leaving the bloc, the EU Commission insisted the issue was not even up for discussion.
Chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters: “The European Union agencies must be based in the territory of the European Union.
“The decision to relocated the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority is a decision for the 27 member states to take.
“It is not part of the Brexit negotiations, it is rather a consequence of Brexit. The UK is leaving the EU and it will have no say in the location of EU agencies.”
The EMA has a budget of some £270 million a year and plays temporary host to 36,000 national regulators and scientists who come to London to approve drugs for the EU from across Europe.
Meanwhile, the location of the EU’s banking authority in the British capital is seen as a key part of the City’s reputation as the undisputed global centre for finance.
Leaked EU Commission negotiating guidelines show that Brussels wants the UK Government to pay for the relocation of both agencies to other European cities and to cover the cost of moving all their staff.
A UK Brexit department spokesman said: “No decisions have been taken about the location of the European Banking Authority or the European Medicines Agency — these will be subject to the exit negotiations.
“The government will discuss with the EU and member states how best to continue co-operation in the fields of banking and medicines regulation in the best interests of both the UK and the EU.”
Source : EXPRESS