EU medicines agency loses bid to end London lease over Brexit

February 20, 2019

By Kirstin Ridley

LONDON (Reuters) – The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has lost its bid to cancel a lease on its office in London’s Canary Wharf financial district due to Brexit, in a landmark ruling that lawyers said could stave off similar such claims by other tenants.

A judge in London on Wednesday ruled against the EMA, which had argued Britain’s forthcoming exit from the European Union was an unexpected event that “frustrated” its 25-year lease on a building in Canary Wharf.

The EMA was hoping to escape an overall rent bill estimated at around 500 million pounds ($650 million) it is contracted to pay to landlord Canary Wharf Group, as the European agency shifts to Amsterdam due to Brexit.

“The judge has ruled that Brexit does not amount to an event of frustration of the EMA’s lease and this result will be welcome news in the property and legal market, bringing greater certainty as to the impact of Brexit on contracts,” said Ben Hatton, a lawyer for Clifford Chance which represented Canary Wharf Group.

The EMA employs around 900 staff and is the biggest EU institution affected by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

It said it would take some time to carefully study the implications of the decision.

While it respected the ruling of the High Court, the EMA reiterated that it had “no choice” but to leave London and believed that a preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of The European Union was still “the most appropriate way forward.”

“The judgment confirms the possibility for EMA to sublet or assign the premises at 30, Churchill Place subject to the landlord’s consent,” it said in a statement.

“The Agency continues to trust in the cooperation and goodwill of the Canary Wharf Group to find a mutually satisfactory solution before the end of March 2019.”

The EMA’s move to a new home has sparked concerns among drugmakers, which fear potential disruption to medicines regulation. It will also require a significant redistribution of supervisory work, following the loss of UK experts from the regulatory system.

(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley, additional reporting by Sinead Cruise, writing by Lawrence White; Editing by Mark Potter/Keith Weir)

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