Brexit blues drive EU bank watchdog's London staff for exit

LONDON (Reuters) - The European Union’s London-based banking watchdog has lost nearly a tenth of its staff in just two months as fewer people apply for jobs and more leave because of Brexit.

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From its base in Canary Wharf, one of London’s two main business districts, the European Banking Authority is responsible for fleshing out the bloc’s banking laws.

The EU will decide in November where the EBA’s new home will be after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019 and its chair Andrea Enria hopes this will finally lift the uncertainty which has hung over the agency since last year’s Brexit vote.

“We have not received the same amount of job applications that we used to receive,” Enria told the Reuters Financial Regulation Summit in London.

“What is concerning me the most now is that we are seeing a pick-up in exits from the authority. Since the beginning of July we have had 15 exits, which is 8 percent of our staff.”

Rather than wait to see which of eight EU states wins the trophy of housing the EBA, some staff are already leaving for the private sector.

Finding staff in a “shrinking pool” has also become harder for the EBA as banking regulators across Europe are recruiting to handle a deluge of licence applications by banks which are having to relocate some operations due to Brexit.

“We have had a few cases in which we have been unable to close positively the selection process, but in general the quality of applications remains very high and we have managed to fill most vacancies in a satisfactory way,” Enria said.

“The impact is still manageable.”

EBA employs 185 people and a decision in November would allow Enria to “better understand” staff intentions and launch a recruitment process to create a reserve list to ensure a smooth transition to the new location, even if more people leave.

“Also, we need sufficient time between the decision and its actual execution, to reduce as much as possible the impact on the staff and to manage a rather complex procedure to select the new office space,” said Enria, whose term ends in 2021.

There is also a battle among EU states to be the new home of the European Medicines Agency when it too must leave its base a few metres away from the EBA after Brexit.

The drugs watchdog said on Tuesday it could lose up to 70 percent of staff if politicians pick the wrong new home for it.

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Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Alexander Smith