The UK has been delivered a “bitter Brexit blow” after it was revealed two prestigious European Union agencies that provided more than 1,000 high-quality jobs will leave the country.
London lost the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to Amsterdam, and hours later it was announced the European Banking Authority (EBA) will be relocated from the UK capital to Paris as a result of the UK quitting the EU.
Critics seized on the decision by the European Commission as the first evidence of the destructive impact of Brexit. Former Labour Cabinet minister Lord Adonis labelled the re-locations as “national self-mutilation”.
Critics also seized on the fact Brexit Secretary David Davis had signalled in April that the UK could still keep the two agencies.
The Dutch capital won the right to host the EMA in a crunch vote that ended in a tie against Milan. Similarly, Paris won in a lucky dip over Dublin.
In all, 19 cities had bid for the prestige and economic boost that the arrival of the EMA’s 900 staff and many offices for international pharmaceuticals companies will bring. The European Banking Authority has a smaller staff of around 170.
Frankfurt, home to the European Central Bank and aiming to be the EU’s primary financial center after Brexit, suffered a blow when it was badly beaten in the second round of voting.
The EBA sets rules used by the European Central Bank to carry out stress tests of the banking sector in the bloc. The EMA is a key player in the continent’s healthcare industry. Together they are seen as essential for the authorisation of medicines and for bank regulation.
But the agencies provide bigger economic benefits.
The EMA was opened in 1995 after being secured by John Major’s government, and has positive knock-on effects for the capital as 36,000 scientists and regulators visit each year.
The EBA was opened in 2011 under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition to tighten up financial supervision after the 2008 crash. The fear is its removal will dent London’s reputation as a financial centre.
Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: “While not surprising, these moves mark the beginning of the jobs Brexodus.
“Large private sector organisations are also considering moving to Europe and we can expect many to do so over the next few years.
“That Davis Davis suggested the UK could keep these agencies shows just how little grasp the government has of the potential consequences of Brexit.”
EU summit chair Donald Tusk tweeted ahead of the vote: “Whatever the outcome, the real winner of today’s vote is EU27. Organized and getting ready for Brexit.”
Estonia’s EU minister Matti Maasikas, who was chairing the voting session, called the contest “a sad reminder of the concrete consequences of Brexit”.
The European Commssion said in a statement after the vote: “The relocation of these two Agencies is a direct consequence – and the first visible result – of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union.”
Despite fierce competition, the 27 EU states - minus Britain - are keen to avoid any protracted and bruising dispute over the matter as they see preserving unity as essential in facing Brexit, the biggest setback in the post-World War Two history of European integration.