EU states set for squabble over who gets London's agencies after Brexit

BRUSSELS, July 31 (Reuters) - Almost all EU countries are likely to bid to host the two major regulatory agencies that have to be relocated from London, setting up a potential squabble between the 27 remaining members that have so far shown a united front on Brexit.

Bids to host the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which together employ more than 1,000 people, must be made by the end of Monday.

Twenty-one countries have already expressed an interest in the EMA, while eight have indicated they want the EBA. Those numbers could change with entries allowed until midnight.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia are the only countries not expected to bid. France with Paris and Lille, Germany with Frankfurt and Bonn, Austria, Ireland, Hungary and Poland are bidding for the two, although no one country will be allowed to get both.

The European Commission will assess the candidates by September but the decision rests with EU leaders who will try to reach a consensus deal at their next summit, in October. Ministers will then hold a vote in November in a process some have likened to the Eurovision Song Contest.

The EMA employs nearly 900 staff and acts as a one-stop-shop for approving and monitoring the safety of drugs across Europe. With an annual budget of $360 million and attracting 36,000 experts a year to London for meetings, it is a prized asset.

Barcelona, Copenhagen and Milan are among the cities campaigning to host it.

The EMA’s executive director, Guido Rasi, has called for a decision to be made as soon as possible to limit the disruption to his agency’s work.

Frankfurt, Luxembourg and Paris are among the cities vying for the EBA, whose 160 employees write and coordinate banking rules across the bloc.

Among criteria for selection are a city’s infrastructure, transport links, jobs for employees’ families, and the need to spread EU institutions around Europe. Newer, eastern members will argue that they should be prioritised as they have fewer EU bodies than the older EU states in the west. (Reporting by Elizabeth Miles, additional reporting by Ben Hirschler; Writing by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)