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

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.

Extension of the period under 'Article 50' 

Update: On 29 October 2019, the European Council agreed to a further extension of the date for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The extension will last as long as necessary and, in any event, no longer than 31 January 2020. For more information, see:

The UK remains a Member State for the duration of the extension.

EMA calls on all pharmaceutical companies in the EU to continue their preparedness for the UK’s withdrawal.

Based on the European Council decision, and until further notice, the deadline of 29 March 2019 referred to in Brexit related guidance should be understood as referring to 31 January 2020.

One of the consequences of Brexit is that EMA has relocated to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in line with Regulation (EU) 2018/1718.

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

EMA is working on the scenario that the UK will become a third country. As a consequence, the UK will no longer be able to engage as (co)-rapporteur for new marketing authorisation applications via the centralised procedure. This is without prejudice to the outcome of the withdrawal negotiations.

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

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.

EMA has developed a business continuity plan to ensure operational continuity during its physical relocation and readiness for the UK's withdrawal from the EU. It enables EMA to deliver its highest priority activities and to temporarily scale back or suspend lower priority activities if required.

EMA will continue to operate under business continuity conditions until at least the end of 2019, to safeguard the Agency's core activities related to the evaluation and supervision of medicines. This is necessary as EMA will need several months to rebuild its workforce after its relocation to Amsterdam.

EMA has prioritised activities from its multi-annual work programme to continue in 2019, which are included in Annex 1 of the business continuity plan:

As of early October 2019, EMA's total workforce was roughly 730 which is a further 6% reduction compared to June 2019. Interim arrangements allowing staff to telework from London due to their personal circumstances have largely come to an end.

Due to the ongoing resource constraints, delivery of EMA’s work programme for the last quarter of 2019 will be challenging, particularly in view of the need to implement new legislation for veterinary medicines and medical devices, which will bring additional workload.

In order to be best prepared to address future challenges with the existing workforce, EMA is reviewing its organisational structure and looking to set up task forces that will focus on key priorities for the European medicines regulatory network such as digital business transformation, data analytics and methods, regulatory science and innovation and clinical trials and manufacturing strategy.

EMA plans to integrate operations in the area of human medicines to strengthen the therapeutic focus all along a medicine’s lifecycle, with the aim of assuring the quality of scientific opinions and further improving support to EMA’s scientific committees.

Overall, this will ensure that EMA is geared up for the future with more efficient processes firmly rooted in digital technology to keep pace with rapid advances in science. EMA will share more information with stakeholders in due course.

EMA continuously reviews and adapts its business continuity plan as necessary. 

Regulatory preparedness

In April 2018, the EU27 Member States and EMA completed the redistribution of the UK's portfolio of over 370 centrally authorised products to rapporteurs and co-rapporteurs from the EU27 plus Iceland and Norway, in preparation for Brexit.

EMA informed the relevant marketing authorisation holders of the new (co)-rapporteurships at the end of April 2018. Since 1 July 2019 the new rapporteurs and co-rapporteurs are fully responsible for these medicines.

In October 2018, EMA published the cut-off dates for UK (co)-rapporteur appointments for pre- and post-authorisation activities, based on the average duration of specific centralised procedures from submission to outcome:

In September 2018, the new (co)-rapporteurs received a knowledge transfer package for each product, containing background knowledge on the regulatory and evaluation history of each product, including the most recent benefit-risk assessment.

This will also help each national competent authority to forecast upcoming workload, to better support the planning of resources, particularly for complex products in the portfolio.

The redistribution plan covers the post-authorisation stage in a medicine's lifecycle. It takes into account the diverse expertise in the European medicines regulatory network and allows Member States to participate in EMA activities according to their capacity.

The methodology draws on Member States' expertise with a specific class of medicines and knowledge gained through prior involvement in a medicine's evaluation. For more information see:

EMA's two working groups on committees' operational preparedness developed the methodology. For more information, see:

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.

Preventing Brexit-related medicine shortages

EMA has published a questions-and-answers document to address potential questions from stakeholders on the supply of medicines in the EU after Brexit and what the Agency, the European Commission and national competent authorities in the Member States are doing to prevent potential medicine supply shortages due to Brexit:

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