The European Commission has slapped down suggestions that Britain could remain home to the European Union's banking and medicines agencies. Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas told reporters on Wednesday that EU agencies must be based in the territory of the EU.
A report in the Financial Times over the weekend suggested that Britain’s Brexit minister David Davis did not accept that the two agencies, which employ about 1,000 people in London, would have to relocate once the UK leaves the EU in 2019.
A spokesperson for his department said no decisions had been taken and that the location of the two agencies would be subject to negotiations.
The report was picked up by news outlets that claimed the EU was punishing the UK for Brexit.
However, Schinas said the decision of where to relocate the European Banking Authority (EBA), which coordinates banking rules, and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Europe's drugs monitor, was for the 27 remaining member states to take – and the matter would not be part of the Brexit negotiations.
“It is rather a consequence of Brexit,” Schinas said. “The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union and it will have no say in the location of the EU agencies,” he added.
Davis's hope that the issue was up for debate is likely to have caused some surprise in Europe’s capitals. In fact, the EU is set to agree the process to relocate the agencies within weeks. And draft negotiating guidelines circulated by European Council president Donald Tusk last month were also quite clear that the agencies would be moved from London.
Most of the EU’s remaining 27 member states will be bidding to take control of the two agencies, regarded to be among the "crown jewels" of EU agencies.
For similar reasons, it is likely the UK will be left without MEPs, including Nigel Farage, in the European parliament, or commissioners in the European Commission, once the country leaves the EU.