United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union ('Brexit')

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On 29 March 2017, the United Kingdom (UK) notified the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the European Union (EU), a process known as 'Brexit'. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is making preparations to ensure that it can continue to deliver on its mission and protect public and animal health after the UK leaves the EU on 30 March 2019, the date currently set by the timeframe provided in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.

One of the consequences of Brexit is that EMA will relocate to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where it has to take up its operations on 30 March 2019 at the latest.

The Agency continues its operations in accordance with the timelines set by its rules and regulations.

EMA is working on the assumption that the UK will become a third country as of 30 March 2019. This is without prejudice to the outcome of the withdrawal negotiations. The UK continues to participate in all EMA activities and meetings and retains its speaking and voting rights.

No Member State has previously decided to leave the EU, so there is no precedent for this situation. 

In this section

Continuity of EMA activities

EMA is essential to the functioning of the single market for medicines in the EU. The Agency’s work is vital to providing EU citizens with effective, safe and high-quality medicines and to maintain a regulatory environment that fosters innovation and the development of new medicines

The Agency is taking steps to ensure that it can continue to deliver on its mission and protect public and animal health while it prepares to relocate.

Regulatory preparedness

The EU 27 Member States and EMA have developed a methodology for the redistribution of the work currently carried out by the UK’s national competent authorities for human and veterinary medicines, the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). 

The joint redistribution plan reflects the strengthened capacity of the European medicines regulatory network. It takes into account the diverse expertise in the network and the workload associated with the medicines. 

EMA will communicate details of the methodology and next steps in early 2018.

EMA has two working groups, one focusing on human medicines and one on veterinary medicines, exploring options for a robust allocation of the workload across the European medicines regulatory network and ways to streamline work and further increase capacity in the network.

EMA first initiated discussions with the national competent authorities in April 2017 on how work related to the evaluation and monitoring of medicines will be shared between Member States in view of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. 

Business continuity plan

EMA has developed a business continuity plan to ensure operational continuity while the Agency prepares for its relocation and the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. 

EMA published the full plan in October 2017, following endorsement by the Management Board in June 2017:

It assigns EMA activities to three categories of priority according to their impact on public health and the Agency’s ability to function. The plan enables EMA to deliver its highest priority activities and to temporarily scale back or temporarily suspend lower priority activities if required. 

The business continuity plan enters its second phase in January 2018. The Agency will publish further details on the plan in the 2018 work programme.

EMA will continuously review and adapt the plan as necessary.

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Brochure: The work of EMA