Speeches

Speech by Minister Simon Harris at EMA Stakeholder Engagement Event

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Colleagues,

I would like to thank you for attending this event at the end of your working day and I really appreciate your interest and support for our bid to make Dublin the new home of the European Medicines Agency.

As you all know, the UK’s decision to leave the EU will be a challenging path for Ireland to navigate. However like everything related to “Brexit” we must rise to meet those challenges, and where possible, take opportunities to protect and enhance Ireland’s position as a Member State of the EU.

The requirement to relocate the EMA to another Member State is one such opportunity, and one that we must engage with whole-heartedly.

As Minister for Health, I am very conscious that the EMA plays a vital role in the protection of the health of 500 million European citizens through the scientific evaluation and safety monitoring of human and veterinary medicines. The Agency is also key to maintaining the competiveness of the European pharmaceutical industry which is worth around €260 billion annually.

As a result of Brexit, the EMA is facing a significant loss of expert staff and disruption to its operations. Europe needs to find a sustainable solution and I am convinced that relocating the EMA to Dublin is the best choice for Europe.

Dublin has many advantages to offer the EMA:

  • It will prove to be a popular location for current and future staff, thus contributing to the retention of expertise within the EMA.
  • Dublin has the advantage of being an English-speaking environment and this is important as English is the working language of the EMA and the pharmaceutical industry. This will be a key consideration for partners and children of EMA staff who are used to working and being educated through English.
  • Ireland’s national medicines agency, the Health Products Regulatory Authority, already provides significant support to the EMA and this can be rapidly scaled up in the event of relocation.
  • Dublin offers excellent air connectivity with EU capitals and internationally. The airport itself is only 20 minutes from the city centre.
  • When it comes to office accommodation and hotel accommodation, Dublin has the infrastructure to meet EMA requirements, with significant development on both fronts in the pipeline over the next 2 – 3 year period.
  • Dublin has excellent ICT connectivity as demonstrated by the range of internationally renowned tech companies headquartered in Dublin.
  • The strong life sciences sector in Ireland, which is home to many of the leading biopharmaceutical companies, presents opportunities for synergies between industry, research, and regulation.
  • Dublin offers a politically stable, pro- EU environment with all the amenities a modern capital city has to offer.

While the focus must remain on the protection of the health of European citizens, it is worth acknowledging that hosting the EMA would have significant benefits to Ireland.

This is a high-performing, well-regarded and prestigious agency that will bring with it a large staff contingent, 36,000 expert visitors per year and reinforce our reputation as a leader when it comes to research and innovation in the area of medicines.

But before Ireland can access those benefits, we must work hard to show that Dublin will work for the EMA.

Last October, the Government decided to formally bid to host the Agency. An interdepartmental/interagency group was established to progress our proposal.

In recent months I have visited the EMA in London and met senior management to better understand its needs in a new location.

I have also promoted Dublin as a location in discussions with the EU Health Commissioner Andriukaitis and had discussions in Brussels with our diplomats, Commissioner Hogan and other key stakeholders.

Last week, Minister Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy spent two days in Brussels holding a series of meetings, including with the Barnier Taskforce and MEPs, to promote Dublin as the best option for the relocation of the EMA.

At Cabinet this morning, I updated my colleagues on our efforts to date and emphasised that, with the triggering of Article 50 tomorrow, we are now entering a crucial phase in the campaign. While over 20 countries have expressed an interest in hosting the EMA, there are probably 6 or 7 that are seen as real contenders. Most international commentators believe that Dublin is in this leading group of cities that could successfully host the EMA.

It is in the interests of the EMA that there is an early decision on the new location in order to provide certainty to staff and allow sufficient time for a smooth transition. The Taoiseach and fellow Ministers are fully behind our bid and realise that winning the EMA for Ireland is of strategic importance.

We are conscious that a decision on the future location of the EMA could be taken as early as the June Council or shortly thereafter so it is will vital that we pull out all the stops over the next few months.

This is where this evening’s event fits in. I see the people in this room as key stakeholders and influencers. Some of you represent industries which already interact closely with the EMA. Some represent key attributes of the Dublin bid such as infrastructure and communications. And some are already engaged with this process, providing information and support to the working group.

It is now time that we redouble our efforts and let the decision-makers know that Dublin is ready, willing and able to be the new home for the EMA and that, across all sectors and areas, we are behind this bid.

It is important that we all present a clear, consistent, positive, message to all decision-makers and influencers. We have summarised the case for Dublin in an information leaflet which is available to you here. I will shortly launch a website and brochure setting out in more detail the compelling case for Dublin and I ask each of you to take all opportunities presented, through your own networks, especially European networks to make the case for relocating the EMA to Dublin.

I am prepared to do everything to make this happen, and, I believe that with your help, we can convince Europe that choosing Ireland as the new location for the EMA is in the best interests of European citizens and the innovative bio-pharmaceutical industry.

Thank you.

Brexit – Relocating the European Medicines Agency from London to Dublin