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EU medicines agency loses Brexit court case on London lease

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AFP  |  London 

The European Medicines Agency, which is moving from Britain to Amsterdam because of Brexit, on Wednesday lost a court battle to cancel the lease on its London headquarters.

The EMA's lease on offices in the Canary Wharf business district runs until 2039 and is worth an estimated 500 million pounds ($650 million, 575 million euros).

The EMA evaluates and supervises medicines for human and animal use and has been based in Canary Wharf since 1995.

But the European Union said the agency and its 900 staff had to move to a member country following Britain's seismic June 2016 vote to leave the bloc. The EMA argued that its lease has been "frustrated" by Britain's impending departure from the EU -- a legal term meaning that due to an unforeseen event, the original basis on which it was signed has changed and makes it impossible to fulfil.

But the Canary Wharf Group landlords took the agency to the English High Court to enforce the contract.

Judge Marcus Smith ruled that the lease "will not be frustrated on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union".

"The lease will not be discharged by frustration on the United Kingdom's transition from member state of the European Union to third country, nor does the EMA's shift of headquarters from London to Amsterdam constitute a frustrating event," he said in his conclusion.

"The EMA remains obliged to perform its obligations under the lease." He said the frustration of the lease was "self-induced".

The EMA last month set up in a temporary base in Amsterdam. The regulator's new 300-million-euro headquarters will not be ready until November, so the EMA will be based in stopgap accommodation for several months after Britain quits the EU on March 29.

Amsterdam beat the Italian city of Milan to host the EMA in a tense tie-break vote in November 2017. France got the London-based European Banking Authority. Canary Wharf Group chairman and chief executive George Iacobescu welcomed the ruling.

"We have always firmly believed that Brexit did not amount to a frustration of EMA's lease," he said in a statement.

"We fulfil our contracts and expect other parties with whom we enter contracts to respect the law and their own obligations.

"If EMA had been successful it could have undermined fundamental principles of English law and set an unfortunate precedent." The EMA said it will "carefully study this judgement, its implications and the most appropriate way forward". "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.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Wed, February 20 2019. 20:50 IST
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