Thursday 27 July 2017

State may have to cover rent to land EU agencies

The bid for the EMA is being led by Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Gerry Mooney
The bid for the EMA is being led by Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

The Government will have to state in its formal bids to host the EU's banking and drugs regulators whether it will pay their rent if they move here after Brexit.

The European Council has asked member states applying to host the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and/or the European Banking Authority (EBA) to state if they would be willing to cough up the rent for a specific period of time, or indefinitely.

The Department of Finance said the issue of the EBA's rent will be a matter for Cabinet to decide. It is understood that in the case of the EMA, the Department of Health is waiting for further details on the bid process.

Governments also have to set out specific premises for the agencies, and detail the terms concerning maintenance, including upgrading and future extensions if needed.

The European Council has also set out specific requirements for each agency, including, in the case of the EMA, having a daily peak hotel capacity of 350 rooms to cater for its 36,000 visitors, and enough school places for the roughly 650 children of EMA staff.

The Government is preparing formal bids for both agencies, with the EMA arguably the more valuable politically given that it brings with it 900 staff.

The bid for the EMA is being led by Health Minister Simon Harris and faces stiff competition from 20 other member states.

Two potential sites have been located for the agency - at Dublin Airport and Docklands. One of the key arguments made by the Irish bid team, which includes 24 people across a number of departments and agencies, is that given Dublin's close proximity to London and extensive air connection, staff can commute, at least initially, to allow for a smoother transition.

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The bid for the EBA, which employs 189 staff, is being led by Financial Services Minister Eoghan Murphy. He has argued that shifting its operations to Dublin is the least disruptive option for the agency's work and staff, but again Ireland faces tough competition, most notably from Frankfurt.

It is understood that no location has yet been chosen for the EBA bid, although options will be presented once the bid document is finalised in the coming weeks. Member states interested in applying must submit their offers by the end of July at the latest, with a decision expected in October.

Governments will have to show that the agencies will be able to set up on site and start work at the date of the UK's EU withdrawal, which is slated for March 2019. It also states Governments must detail the accessibility of the location, including frequency and duration of flights, availability and frequency of public transport, as well as housing.

The latter point is an issue for the EMA bid in particular given the number of staff, but the Government is confident that the demand can be met.

It also believes that it will be able to meet the hotel requirement, citing figures from Fáilte Ireland showing that, as of 2015, Dublin had roughly 40,000 rooms registered with the body. The Irish Hotels Federation also said there would be enough capacity.

Irish Independent

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