The controversial news is not that the London-based European Medicines Agency will move its 900 jobs to Amsterdam after Brexit. It’s the agency’s bid to use Brexit to get out of a 500 million-pound rent bill.
The agency wants to break its lease in the UK capital’s Canary Wharf area, saying that it couldn’t have anticipated that Britain would vote to leave the European Union.
As reported by Bloomberg, property owner Canary Wharf T1 Ltd. filed a lawsuit to enforce the lease because the issue is creating uncertainty for its shareholders and lenders.
Joanne Wicks, a lawyer for Canary Wharf, said at a hearing on June 26 that a decision allowing the EMA to use Brexit to justify breaking its 25-year lease would have consequences for the property market throughout the country. She focused on UK banks’ ability to work outside of the country after the exit.
“What would be there to stop a city firm losing its passporting rights saying, my lease has been frustrated by Brexit?,” she said, referring to a legal term that indicates the initial purpose of a contract is no longer valid. “What would be there be to stop a manufacturing company using logistics systems across national borders saying, my lease has been frustrated by Brexit?”
The EMA said in court documents that it had written to its landlord to say that “as the EMA is inextricably intertwined with the EU institutions and the member states that host them, Brexit would be treated as an event of frustration of the lease.”
According to Bloomberg, the EMA lawyers said that Brexit wasn’t foreseeable at the time of the lease agreement.