…No British judge on world court for first time in its 71-year history***
London is losing the European Medicines Agency to Amsterdam and the European Banking Authority to Paris, in one of the first concrete signs of Brexit as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.
The two cities won the agencies after tie breaks that saw the winner selected by drawing lots from a large goldfish-style bowl.
The Dutch capital beat Milan in the lucky dip after three rounds of Eurovision-style voting on Monday had resulted in a dead heat.
Paris won the race to take the European Banking Authority from London, beating Dublin in the final, after the favourite Frankfurt was knocked out in the second round.
The EU’s 27 European affairs ministers, minus the UK, took less than three hours to decide the new home of the medicines agency, which employs 900 people in Canary Wharf, London. The decision on the banking authority, which employs 150 and is also based in Canary Wharf, was made in little more than an hour.
Amsterdam beat competition from 18 cities ranging from fancied contenders such as Copenhagen and Bratislava to outsiders such as Bucharest and Sofia.
Eight cities were in the running for the banking authority, which was set up in 2011 to tighten up regulation after the financial crisis.
The contest provoked the first public recriminations over Brexit among the EU27, after no eastern members made it beyond the first rounds. Slovakia’s minister Tomáš Drucker said he abstained from the final votes on the medicines agency, because no countries from his region had been successful in the opening stage. “I think it’s not fair and it’s not a good message for the European inhabitants.”
Italy’s Europe minister Sandro Gozi said Milan’s loss to Amsterdam in a tie-breaker was like losing the World Cup on the toss of a coin.
But for the victors, there was relief. “We are delighted, it was very tight, it was nerve wracking to be honest,” said Dutch minister Halbe Zijlstra. France’s success will be seen as a victory for Emmanuel Macron, although his minister, Nathalie Loiseau, expressed sadness that Lille had lost out in the race for the medicines agency.
The British government was powerless to stop the relocation of these two prized regulatory bodies, secured by previous Conservative prime ministers. The Department for Exiting the European Union had claimed the future of the agencies would be subject to the Brexit negotiations, a claim that caused disbelief in Brussels.
Speaking before the vote on Monday, the EU’s chief negotiator on Brexit, Michel Barnier, said “ardent advocates of Brexit” had contradicted themselves on EU rules.
In the meantime, the UK will not have a judge on the bench of the international court of justice for the first time in its 71-year history after the British candidate withdrew following an acrimonious competition.
Minutes after an 11th round of voting was scheduled to begin in New York on Monday, a letter was released by the UK mission to the UN announcing that Sir Christopher Greenwood would accept defeat and allow the rival Indian candidate, Dalveer Bhandari, to fill the final vacancy on the ICJ.
The decision to bow to mounting opposition within the UN general assembly is a humiliating blow to British international prestige and an acceptance of a diminished status in international affairs.
That the runoff for the last place on what is known as the world court was between Britain and India, a nation likely to feature as a more significant trading partner post-Brexit, may have been a contributory element in the final calculations.
There have been calls in Indian media for the country to leave the Commonwealth if the UK exploited its position as one of the five permanent members of the security council to defend its weakened position.
The ICJ is composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms by the UN general assembly and the UN security council.
Four other judges, from Brazil, France, Lebanon and Somalia, had already been elected to the ICJ in the earlier rounds.
In the last round of voting at the UN a week ago, Greenwood secured only 68 votes in the general assembly against Bhandari’s 121 votes. The British candidate, however, had nine votes in the UN security council against the Indian’s five. A majority in both the general assembly and security council was required to win a place on the ICJ bench.
The race for last place involved weeks of diplomatic lobbying and, in the end, the UK was partially the victim of residual international resentment in the UN general assembly of the dominance and privileges of the permanent five members of the security council – the US, Britain, France, China and Russia.
Other factors also torpedoed UK efforts. Greenwood, a highly experienced and capable lawyer, was tainted in some eyes because of his advice to the Blair government in the run-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003.