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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Paris beats Dublin to host EU banking agency after Brexit

There were eight bidders for the European Banking Authority, which has been seen as one of the most prized spoils of Britain's decision to quit the EU

One Canada Square house, centre, currently hosts the offices of the European Banking Authority headquarters in London, but the agency will relocate to Paris after Brexit. AP / Frank Augstein
One Canada Square house, centre, currently hosts the offices of the European Banking Authority headquarters in London, but the agency will relocate to Paris after Brexit. AP / Frank Augstein

Paris has been picked to succeed London as host city of the European Banking Authority once Britain leaves the European Union.

Paris beat out Dublin in the final round of voting Monday among the 28 EU nations minus Britain. Frankfurt, in a surprise, failed to be selected as one of the two finalists.

The European Banking Authority monitors the regulation and supervision of Europe's banking sector. It has a staff of about 180.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the choice of Paris for the banking regulator showed the "attractiveness of France".

Meanwhile, EU President Donald Tusk said on Twitter before the vote that "whatever the outcome, the real winner of today's vote is EU27. Organised and getting ready for Brexit."

Earlier on Monday, EU members had tapped Amsterdam as the future home the European Medicines Agency.

The two watchdogs, with a total of 1,000 highly skilled jobs between them, are currently based in London's Canary Wharf district but must leave before Britain quits the EU in March 2019.

Frankfurt, home to the European Central Bank and aiming to be the Union's primary financial centre after Brexit, suffered a blow when it was badly beaten in the second round of EBA voting.

In a third round, Paris overhauled Dublin, which had been just one vote short of a second-round majority. With the scores in the runoff tied again by abstention, Paris won when the Estonian minister chairing the meeting, Matti Maasikas, again had to draw lots.

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Mr Maasikas struck a more subdued note, calling the contest "a sad reminder of the concrete consequences of Brexit".

The battle for both agencies has been bitterly contested, with governments jostling to win the backing of other countries with "hot bargaining" behind the scenes, a diplomatic source told AFP.

There were eight bidders for the banking regulator. The agency is perhaps best known for its regular "stress tests" on the EU's financial sector in the wake of the global financial crisis. Meanwhile, a total of 16 candidates had thrown their cap into the ring to be the new home of the EMA.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, delivered an evaluation of the applications in September based on a range of criteria, from transport links to job prospects for spouses and schools.

But the staff of the agencies in question, already being forced to up sticks from London, had reportedly been nervous about some of the candidates, reportedly including Bratislava, Warsaw, Bucharest and Sofia.

Despite fierce competition, the 27 EU states were keen to avoid any protracted and bruising dispute over the matter as they see preserving unity as essential in facing Brexit, the biggest setback in the post-World War Two history of European integration.

Meanwhile, for Britain, the departure of the two agencies is an economic and political blow.

Labour MP Lyn Brown tweeted that it showed London's "loss of influence" in the wake of Brexit.

Meanwhile, the centre-right European People's Party, which is the largest group in the European Parliament, said: "For the UK, its loss is the first self-inflicted wound of Brexit."