July 26, 2018 / 1:40 PM / 21 days ago

EU medicines agency faces court fight over $660 million rent bill

LONDON (Reuters) - The European Medicines Agency, which is moving from London to Amsterdam because of Brexit, has been taken to court by its UK landlord, which wants it to keep paying a rent bill estimated at around 500 million pounds.

The headquarters of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), is seen in London, Britain, April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Europe’s equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration signed a 25-year lease in 2014 on its premises in London’s Canary Wharf district, but it now argues Brexit amounts to an unforeseen event of “frustration” of the lease - a potential legal get-out.

Property owner Canary Wharf T1 Ltd disagrees and has taken the case to court, asking a judge to enforce the lease. The outstanding bill for the remainder of the lease, including service charges and rates, is some 500 million pounds.

“We feel that the EMA (European Medicines Agency) should continue to comply with their freely negotiated legal obligations,” a spokesman said.

“We have been working with the EMA for nine months to see if they can resolve the issue. However, we are seeking this declaration so that the EMA is clear that its lease obligations will not be affected by Brexit.”

The EMA employs around 900 staff and is the biggest EU institution affected by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

Its move to a new home has sparked concerns among drugmakers, which fear potential disruption to medicines regulation. It will also require a significant redistribution of supervisory work, following the loss of UK experts from the regulatory system.

An EMA spokeswoman said the agency did not comment on ongoing legal cases.

($1 = 0.7589 pounds)

Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Alison Williams

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