Wednesday, 5 October 2016
I thank the Senator for raising this important issue. He has been very clear in flagging the challenges we will face as a consequence of Brexit. I acknowledge that he has also been to the forefront in having the European Medicines Agency relocate to Ireland.
The European Medicines Agency plays a very important role in the protection and promotion of public health through the scientific evaluation, supervision and safety monitoring of medicines for human and veterinary use in the European Union. As a consequence of Brexit, a decision will have to be made on a new location for the European Medicines Agency. The Government believes this decision should be made relatively quickly once Article 50 is triggered, which, as we know, is to happen in March next year.It is imperative that the relocation be managed in a way that will ensure it has minimal impact on the vital work of the European Medicines Agency during the transition period and beyond. My colleague, the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, has made public his intention to put forward Dublin as a suitable location for the European Medicines Agency and requested officials to prepare a bid setting out the reasons it would be a suitable location. To date, his officials have consulted other Departments, including the Departments of the Taoiseach, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as well as the Irish Healthcare Products Authority, HPRA, State agencies such as IDA Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland, SEl, and pharmaceutical industry representatives. There has also been a range of informal contacts on this issue with individuals at home and abroad who have provided useful insights.
Arising from this consultation process, officials have identified a number of factors which would make Dublin particularly suitable to host the European Medicines Agency, including, as the Senator noted, the fact that the city is an English language location and English is the working language of the agency and the pharmaceutical industry. A further factor is proximity to the Irish medicines regulator, the Health Products Regulatory Authority, which has an excellent track record, already made a significant contribution to the workings of the European Medicines Agency and would provide strong support in the event of a move. On the retention of expertise, Dublin’s proximity to London would prove attractive to some EMA staff with families who are well established in the UK capital as they could decide to commute. In addition, commonality of language arid other facets of life may make it more likely that staff would remain with the European Medicines Agency, rather than leave when the agency has to move from the United Kingdom.
A further factor is that Ireland is one of the leading locations for the pharmaceutical industry in the European Union. Nine out of the ten largest pharmaceutical companies in the world have operations in Ireland and we also have a strong research and development sector. In addition, Dublin has an airport located between 20 and 30 minutes from the city centre, with excellent air connectivity with EU capitals and internationally. The airport also continues to expand its routes.
Last week I had a bilateral meeting with the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Mr. Vytenis Andriukaitis, following a seminar in Brussels on the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. As recently as last Monday, at a meeting of EU Health Ministers in Bratislava the Minister for Health discussed with the Commissioner Ireland's interest in hosting the European Medicines Agency. Work will continue in the coming weeks to prepare Ireland's bid and Ministers and officials will use every possible opportunity to present the case for Dublin, both at home and abroad.