The bill Britain must pay for moving the European Medicines Agency (EMA) from London after Brexit has soared to a staggering £520m, it has emerged.
The Liberal Democrats said the huge sum for relocating the agency – considered a jewel in the EU‘s crown, because it attracts businesses and experts – was among the most “crazy” aspects of withdrawal.
“One of the ludicrous ironies of Brexit is we could end up having to pay large amounts of money to lose highly skilled jobs and research capacity from the UK,” said Brexit spokesman Tom Brake.
“It really is that crazy. Rather than £350m a week extra for the NHS as the Brexiteers promised, Brexit is making us poorer every day.”
The EU insisted earlier this year that Britain must foot the bill for moving the EMA, because it is a direct consequence of the decision to leave the union.
Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Dublin, Lille, Porto, Stockholm and Bratislava are among 19 cities eager to compete for the prize of hosting the agency.
Now Brussels has put the cost of relocation at €582.5m (£520m), with 60 per cent of the costs the result of a botched rental contract for the EMA’s Canary Wharf offices.
The agency failed to negotiate a “break clause”, which means EU taxpayers are locked into a rent contract for its offices until June 30, 2039.
Making Britain pay up should be part of “the negotiations on the withdrawal agreement”, which will restart at the end of the month, the EU has said.
Mr Brake added: “There are around 40 EU agencies of which Britain may no longer be a part, but the government has absolutely no plan and no clue for what arrangements we will have in all these different areas post their extreme Brexit.
And Chris Leslie MP, a pro-EU Labour MP and supporter of the Open Britain campaign, said: “This is yet another price to be paid for the Government’s aim of a hard, destructive Brexit.
“Not only are hundreds of good jobs being shipped out of London thanks to the decision to leave the single market, but UK taxpayers are going to be left on the hook for the relocation costs too.
Meanwhile, Conservative MPs are calling on British businesses and the Government to poach the EMA’s scientists and experts for the UK’s own regulatory agency after Brexit.
The EMA has warned that up 667 of its 890 staff did not want to leave London, potentially “devastating” the agency’s work, the European Parliament’s budget committee has been told.
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, a Tory backbencher, called for the EMA’s scientists and experts to be offered sweeteners to stay and prepare Britain’s pharmaceutical industry for Brexit.
“A lot of those people were involved in shaping the European legislation and I imagine our legislation will have to be very similar to the Europeans’,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
The EMA is responsible for the scientific evaluation, supervision and safety monitoring of all medicines marketed in the EU’s single market.
It also plays host to tens of thousands of national regulators and scientists each year from across the continent, who come to London each year as part of the approval process.