Amsterdam, Paris win post-Brexit EU agencies in lucky-dip thrillers

Updated 20 November 2017
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Amsterdam, Paris win post-Brexit EU agencies in lucky-dip thrillers

BRUSSELS: Amsterdam and Paris won the right to host the two EU agencies that must leave London on Brexit after a dramatic ministerial meeting in Brussels that left both results decided by drawing lots after votes were tied.
The European Medicines Authority (EMA), a key player in the continent’s health care industry, will go to Amsterdam, which pipped the favorite Milan, and the European Banking Authority (EBA) will go to Paris, winner in the lucky dip over Dublin.
“It’s like losing a final on penalties,” Italy’s EU affairs minister Sandro Gozi told reporters, adding that it had left a “bitter taste in the mouth” for an EMA bid that was not behind at any stage. He rejected, however, talk of “betrayal” among any allies who had promised Milan support before the secret ballot.
The outcome was welcomed by European pharmaceuticals bodies. The EMA had warned that many of its staff might quit, possibly disrupting health care in Europe, if governments had chosen a less attractive host city, notably in the ex-communist east.
Steve Bates, CEO of Britain’s BioIndustry Association, said: “Businesses now need certainty. The best way to do this is by an early agreement to a transition time frame and continued close regulatory cooperation. We must now ensure Brexit does not disrupt the safe supply of vital medicines to tens of millions of families in the EU 27 and the UK.”
Eastern governments were left empty-handed.
Frankfurt, home to the European Central Bank and aiming to be the Union’s primary financial center 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 again had to draw lots.
Eastern governments had emphasised that there are relatively few EU agencies located in the countries which joined the bloc only after the Cold War. But their hopes were dashed.
In the EMA voting, Slovakia, whose capital Bratislava was pipped into fourth place in the first round, abstained in protest at the failure of any eastern city to progress.
In all, 19 cities had bid for the prestige and economic boost that the arrival of the EMA’s 900 staff and many offices for international pharmaceuticals companies will bring.
Estonia’s EU minister Matti Maasikas, who was chairing the voting session, called the contest “a sad reminder of the concrete consequences of Brexit.” Britain is due to leave the EU in March 2019.
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.
“Whatever the outcome, the real winner of today’s vote is EU27. Organized and getting ready for Brexit,” EU summit chair Donald Tusk tweeted ahead of the votes.
— REUTERS


50 years after Concorde, US start-up eyes supersonic future

Boom Supersonic co-founder, Blake Scholl, poses for a photograph in front of an artists impression of his company's proposed design for an supersonic aircraft, dubbed Baby Boom, at the Farnborough Airshow, south west of London, on July 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 July 2018
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50 years after Concorde, US start-up eyes supersonic future

  • Boom Supersonic’s aircraft is expected by the company to fly for the first time next year
  • The Concorde was retired following an accident in 2000 in which a Concorde crashed shortly after takeoff from Paris, killing 113 people

WEYBRIDGE, United Kingdom: Luxury air travel faster than the speed of sound: A US start-up is aiming to revive commercial supersonic flight 50 years after the ill-fated Concorde first took to the skies.
Blake Scholl, the former Amazon staffer who co-founded Boom Supersonic, delivered the pledge this week in front of a fully-restored Concorde jet at the Brooklands aviation and motor museum in Weybridge, southwest of London.
Boom Supersonic’s backers include Richard Branson and Japan Airlines and other players are eyeing the same segment.
The company aims to manufacture a prototype jet next year but its plans have been met with skepticism in some quarters.
“The story of Concorde is the story of a journey started but not completed — and we want to pick up on it,” Scholl said.
The event coincided with the nearby Farnborough Airshow.
“Today... the world is more linked than it’s ever been before and the need for improved human connection has never been greater,” Scholl said.
“At Boom, we are inspired at what was accomplished half a century ago,” he added, speaking in front of a former British Airways Concorde that flew for the first time in 1969.

Boom Supersonic’s aircraft, dubbed Baby Boom, is expected by the company to fly for the first time next year.
“If we can’t continue where you left off, and build on that, then the shame is on us,” Scholl said, addressing himself to an audience that included retired Concorde staff.
“Our vision is to build a faster airplane that is accessible to more and more people, to anybody who flies.”
Boom Supersonic is making its debut at Farnborough and hopes to produce its new-generation jets in the mid-2020s or later, with the aim of slashing journey times by half.
The proposed aircraft has a maximum flying range of 8,334 kilometers (5,167 miles) at a speed of Mach 2.2 or 2,335 kilometers per hour.
If it takes off, it would be the first supersonic passenger aircraft since Concorde took its final flight in 2003.
The Concorde was retired following an accident in 2000 in which a Concorde crashed shortly after takeoff from Paris, killing 113 people.
Some analysts remain skeptical over the push back into supersonic.
“Supersonic is not what passengers or airlines want right now,” said Strategic Aero analyst Saj Ahmed, stressing that many travelers wanted cheap low-cost carriers instead.
Ahmed said supersonic jets were “very unattractive” because of high start-up development costs, considerations about noise pollution and high prices as well as limited capacity.

Independent air transport consultant John Strickland also noted supersonic travel was unproven commercially.
“Business traffic, on the face of it, is the most lucrative for airlines,” Strickland told AFP.
“But if there is an economic downturn or something happens where the market for business class traffic drains away, then you have nothing else left to do with that aircraft.
“I think it’s going to be some time before we see whether it can establish a large viable market... in the way that Concorde never managed to do.”
These concerns have not stopped interest from other players.
US aerospace giant Boeing had last month unveiled its “hypersonic” airliner concept, which it hopes will fly at Mach 5 — or five times the speed of sound — when it arrives on the scene in 20 to 30 years.
And in April, NASA inked a deal for US giant Lockheed Martin to develop a supersonic “X-plane.”