EU to decide on relocation of banking body from London before Brexit

European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis addresses a news conference on the European Semester Winter Package in Brussels, Belgium February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission wants a decision on the relocation of the European Banking Authority (EBA) from London before the end of Britain’s EU divorce talks, the EU executive vice president said on Tuesday, raising the possibility of a merger with another EU agency based in Frankfurt.

The EBA, whose 159 London employees write and coordinate banking rules across the bloc, needs to be relocated after Britain voted to quit the EU, because EU agencies are all based in member states.

“We need to take this decision relatively quickly, and not wait for the end of the (Brexit) negotiations, because it takes quite a lot of time of practical preparations for the movement from London to another place,” Valdis Dombrovskis told reporters, shedding light on the timing of the relocation process, which some observers had said could happen after Brexit.

The move could be bundled together with a merger of EBA and the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA), Dombrovskis said.

EIOPA is based in Frankfurt, meaning that the merged authority could be relocated in the German city, winning competition from other EU cities, such as Paris.

Dombrovskis said, however, that decisions on the new EBA location and the possible merger had not yet been made.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio, editing by Ed Osmond