Brexit vote leads the European Medicines Agency to Amsterdam
The shock of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has sent shockwaves through businesses across the world. To counteract any challenges surrounding the vote, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are set to move to Amsterdam in a 16-month relocation project.
Established in London in 1995, the move will see the majority of its 900 employees move to the Netherlands, and see it finalise its operations in London by March 2019.
The decision has been taken by the EU 27 Member States in the margins of the General Affairs Council (Art. 50). The organisation has also decided to relocate the European Banking Authority to Paris, further undermining London’s position within the financial market.
“Amsterdam ticks many of our boxes,” EMA Executive Director Guido Rasi explained. “It offers excellent connectivity and a building that can be shaped according to our needs. I am very grateful that the Member States took into account our requirements for business continuity and gave priority to the protection of public and animal health.”
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Beating over 15 states to house the EMA, the relocation will no doubt impact on the current delivery of new drugs to enter the European market. Employees who choose to resign in essential niche areas could also create delays in ongoing operations.
“I think people are under-estimating the scale of the challenge in moving the agency,” commented Steve Bates, CEO of Britain’s BioIndustry Association. “The EMA took several years to move a few hundred metres in London. In fact, that took longer than the time we have left between now and Brexit.”
The agency is also tied into renting its London facility until 2039, costing approximately €400 million, creating further complexities.
Advances in health "must ensure self-sovereign identity"
The UK government has announced that from September onwards COVID-19 vaccine passports will be necessary to gain entry into places with large crowds, such as nightclubs.
This has reignited the debate between those who believe having proof of vaccinations will enable people to gather in public places and travel safely, and those who view the digital certificates as an attack on personal freedom.
The arguments have increased in intensity since the recent announcement to drop COVID-19 restrictions in England, in a move to reopen the economy that has attracted fierce criticism both domestically and overseas.
Cross-party ministers are set to defy the government’s latest plans to introduce vaccine passports over civil liberties concerns. A number of MPs have already signed the Big Brother Watch declaration against “Covid status certification to deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs” in recent months.
However Mark Shaw, CEO of Tento Applied Sciences, says the Big Brother Watch campaign is based on false assumptions. “Big Brother Watch puts forward a compelling argument based around civil liberties, but some of the assumptions they make are simply incorrect” he says.
“For example, the BBW campaign claims that all Covid passes are discriminatory, counterproductive and would lead to British citizens having to share personal health information with anyone in authority, from bouncers to bosses. However, there are already privacy-first digital wallets that give individuals the freedom to store and share anonymised medical documents, work credentials and other types of documentation quickly, simply, and securely.
“I wholeheartedly agree that individuals should not be required to share their own personal health information with unknown third parties or with anyone in authority who demands it" Shaw adds. "But I strongly disagree with the suggestion that ‘events and businesses are either safe to open for everyone, or no one’. It creates a false dichotomy that either everyone is safe, or nobody is safe. If employers or event organisers don’t take action to properly manage workplace or venue safety, then they risk curtailing the safety and freedom of movement for the majority."
The subject of personal health data is under scrutiny in the UK at the moment, following controversial plans for the NHS to share patient data with third parties. These have been put on hold following public criticism.
Meanwhile a new report has found that the majority of the British public is willing to embrace digital healthcare tools such as apps and digital therapies prescribed by a trusted healthcare professional.
Shaw adds: “The vital point to make is this: innovations in health technology must ensure self-sovereign identity. This means the data held about an individual is owned by the individual and stored on their device. And, in the case of medical data, that data can be delivered from healthcare professionals to the device in an encrypted format, and the user chooses how they share their information."