MILAN The European Union is likely to select a new home for the bloc's London-based medicines regulator by June, according to the mayor of Milan, one of several cities vying to host the organisation after Brexit.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which employs 890 staff, acts as a one-stop-shop for drug approvals across the EU, but its future location is unclear after Britain's decision to leave the bloc.
"There is a sort of urgency. It will depend on the final resolution with the UK (on Brexit) but according to our information, probably in April they will decide to define that. In a couple of months they will choose the final destination," Mayor Giuseppe Sala told a news conference in Milan.
He said it would then be a couple of years before the agency actually moved.
The EMA is the largest EU body in Britain and is a prize for rival cities seeking to attract high-skilled jobs.
Other countries vying to host the agency include Denmark, Sweden, Spain, France, Ireland and Poland. As well as creating jobs, the EMA has the potential to act as a hub for pharmaceuticals, one of Europe's most important industries.
Sala was flanked at the briefing by Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan who, along with Italy’s prime minister and president, are lobbying to persuade the EMA and also the European Banking Authority to relocate to Milan from London.
Italy has also formed a task force to attract EU institutions and banks looking to leave London as a result of Brexit, and recently enacted personal tax incentives for professional managers and wealthy non-residents coming to Italy.
These include a halving of personal income tax or, for the super rich, a flat annual income tax of 100,000 euros.
Asked if Milan had already received positive signals over the EMA, Sala said: "We know that many cities in Europe are competing. It’s difficult to say now ... It’s clear to everybody that it’s a political issue."
A spokeswoman for the EMA in London declined to comment on the timing of any move, noting the location of the agency after Brexit would be determined by EU member states by common agreement.
The uncertainty surrounding Europe's equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a concern for drugmakers, who worry that Europe's drug approval system might face disruption and potential delays.
There is particular anxiety about relations between the EMA and a future separate British drugs regulator. Drug company executives are braced for Britain to quit the pan-European medicines regulator as part of Brexit, but they want the country to continue to work closely with the EMA by agreeing reciprocal rules for drug approvals.
(Additional reporting by Ben Hirschler in London; Editing by Susan Fenton and Adrian Croft)