Londoners adjust to new life in the Netherlands

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By Méabh Mc Mahon
Londoners adjust to new life in the Netherlands

Kristina Larsson was living comfortably in London for 13 years. She never thought should would leave.

Then Brexit happened.

Her employer, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), like over 100 other UK-based companies, relocated to the Netherlands following the referendum in 2016. 

Larsson and her family packed up their bags in January 2019 and are now really pleased to call the Netherlands their home. 

"We are not grateful to Brexit, but for us as a family, it really has made a change to our life living in a smaller city than living in London. And it is really interesting, great challenge and a really good quality of life living here, that is for sure," Larsson explains.

Kristina is one of 728 EMA staffers that have uprooted to the Netherlands so far with the EU agency. 

Deputy Executive Director Noel Wathion has been with the organisation since it was founded in 1995, so for him, it has been a personal objective to make sure Brexit didn't damage their activities. He will never forget how 'devastated' he and has colleagues felt though the day after the June 2016 referendum. 

"It has been challenging. It has been a bumpy ride because we only think about the fact that we had to relocate, which was in itself quite a challenge," Wathion said.

Noel Wathion's objective has been to anticipate the impact Brexit would have on operations. 

"All the marketing authorizations holders, all the companies, have to be established in a member state of the EU. So we have to make sure that after the Brexit date, these companies can continue to operate for the products that are made available in the EU27," Wathion explained. 

Regardless of what happens with Brexit at the end of October, the EMA is in the Netherlands to stay. A brand new building will be inaugurated in January 2020. 

To help it's staff adjust to their new lives abroad, EMA hired Roz Fremder. Fremder owns Expat Help, a company that specializes in making new residents feel at home in the Netherlands. 

"There have been quite some emotional challenges, but I think again in the end, once they are here you settle in the work/life balance, the safety of the city, the independence the children have, it has been a really positive experience," Fremder said.

An experience that many people are living through right now with over 100 companies having already relocated to the Netherlands since the UK voted to leave the European Union.