EU drugs agency, seeking staff, warns of Brexit budget hit

LONDON (Reuters) - Europe’s drugs regulator has issued a 31.8 million-pound ($42 million) tender for temporary workers and warned it could face a major budget hit as it struggles with the fallout of Brexit, which will uproot it from London.

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

Based in London’s Canary Wharf since 1995, with a staff of around 890, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) acts as a one-stop-shop for approving and monitoring the safety of drugs across Europe.

The agency has been applauded by drug companies and patient groups for streamlining Europe’s drug approval process but its ability to operate smoothly is now being challenged by the enforced move to a new location from March 2019.

“EMA is anticipating staff losses which will not only challenge the agency’s operability but could also result in a major deficit in its budget,” the organization said in a statement on Friday, after a meeting of its management board.

If operations are delayed or have to stop there could be a “dramatic drop” in fee income from companies that pay to have their products reviewed, which could be exacerbated by the cost of replacing staff, many of whom are expected to quit rather than leave London.

“Such shortfall would need to be made up from the (European) Union budget,” the EMA said.

Executive Director Guido Rasi told Reuters in an interview earlier this week that crucial work, from approving new drugs to running safety checks, would be put at risk if politicians picked an unsuitable new location.

Preparing for the fallout of the move and the impact of Britain leaving the European Union is already creating extra work for the EMA and forcing it to cut back on some non-critical activities.

Although the EMA regularly employs temporary workers, the scale of the new staffing tender is unusually large. The tender documents call for bi-lingual and multi-lingual staff with administrative, scientific, regulatory and legal expertise to work in the EMA's current London office. (

The agency must be based in an EU country and political leaders are set to decide in a vote on Nov. 20 on a new location among 19 cities vying to host the organization.

A staff survey last week found that between 19 and 94 percent of employees were likely to leave after the move, depending on which location was chosen. Picking Amsterdam, Barcelona, Vienna, Milan or Copenhagen as the new headquarters would be the best option for retaining staff, the survey found.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Alexander Smith, Greg Mahlich