Brexit: Janice Atkinson MEP and colleagues question EU Commission on legality of moving EMA and other EU/UK agencies from UK
In an extraordinary example of EU profligacy, taxpayers look set to be saddled with a £300 million London rent bill for premises which currently house its European Medicines Agency (EMA) – which the EU Commission says must leave London post-Brexit.
This will leave the swish Canary Wharf offices empty with Brussels lumbered with paying the rent of around £15 million a year for an astonishing 20 years after the UK’s scheduled EU exit in 2019. This is because the Eurocrats who negotiated the lease failed to insert any break clause into the contract which runs until 2039.
The European Commission insists that all EU agencies should be based in member states and that therefore the EMA has to move out of London following Brexit.
But MEPs led by Janice Atkinson, the Independent MEP for South East England, have put down questions to the European Parliament questioning the Commission’s claim that any such mandatory requirement exists for agencies to be located in EU states, or to have to relocate in the event of a member state leaving.
They say the ruling is particularly absurd in the light of the high rent which the EMA will still have to pay in London because of the failure to negotiate a break clause.
Janice Atkinson said: “This whole episode sums up the EU’s wanton and profligate attitude to taxpayers’ money. Not negotiating a break clause in a commercial contract would be considered negligent in private business. So too would paying so much money for the sake of a smart business address.
“We do not believe there are any regulations prohibiting EU agencies from remaining in a former Member State. We have therefore asked the European Commission to explain the validity of this supposed mandatory relocation of the EEA.
“This is not just a problem for EU tax[payers post Brexit. It is these sort of scandalous deals and open ended commitments which Brussels is likely to use when calculating the “divorce settlement” which they will try and claim from British taxpayers.”
The EMA rental issue was raised during the EU parliament’s annual audit of EMA spending. The agency’s move from another location in Canary Wharf in 2014 prompted controversy at the time. The EU parliament’s budget committee said the EMA headquarters should not have stayed in “one of the most expensive areas of the most expensive city of the European Union”.
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