Brexit is beginning to bite: The European Union is about to decide where to move 1,000 well-paying jobs currently based at two of its agencies in London.
The relocation of the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority has set off an intense competition among cities that want to host the agencies after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.
The decision, to be announced later Monday, is one of the first concrete examples of jobs leaving London because of regulatory and structural changes caused by Brexit.
The fear is that a trickle of lost jobs could turn into a flood, weakening the ecosystem of legal, banking, tech and scientific expertise that has turned London into one of the world’s top business hubs.
Britain is bracing for tens of thousands of potential job losses. The European Central Bank said last week that roughly 50 banks have already discussed relocation plans with EU authorities.
The two EU agencies are highly sought after: 19 cities have bid to host the European Medicines Agency, which supervises the safety of human and veterinary medicines across the bloc.
Eight cities are competing for the European Banking Authority, which regulates financial firms. Four cities — Brussels, Warsaw, Vienna and Dublin — put their names down for both agencies.
The German financial capital of Frankfurt is seen as a frontrunner for the banking regulator, while Bratislava and Milan are reportedly favorites to host the medicines agency.
Lobbying has been intense ahead of the decision, with bid cities producing glossy brochures and promotional materials. Voting by representatives of all EU member states (minus Britain) will take place by secret ballot.
Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said the real winner of the vote will be the bloc of 27 countries.
“Organized and getting ready for #Brexit,” he tweeted.
Best of luck to all the candidates to host EMA and EBA.
Whatever the outcome, the real winner of today's vote is EU27. Organised and getting ready for #Brexit.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) November 20, 2017
The European Medicines Agency employs roughly 900 people, while the European Banking Authority has a smaller staff of around 170.
The employees are highly qualified, with most holding at least one university degree. Their pay is well above the average for London, with benefits that include child care and housing allowances, pensions and health care. Workers are required to speak English and at least one other European language.
Their economic muscle extends beyond salaries: The European Medicines Agency says its next base must have schools to accommodate 600 children, and 900 households will need affordable homes with good transport links.
Both agencies frequently host seminars and conferences, bringing even more visitors and money into their home cities. The European Medicines Agency alone hosted 36,000 visiting experts in 2016.
— James Frater contributed reporting.