UK participation in programmes funded under the European Union’s research framework is set to be supported until 2020, under the proposed Brexit agreement.
Publishing a joint report on phase one negotiations, EU and UK government officials also confirmed that academics from the EU are expected to retain the right to UK residency after Brexit, even after spending up to five years abroad for work.
“Following withdrawal from the union, the UK will continue to participate in the union programmes…until their closure,” the document says. “Entities located in the UK will be entitled to participate in such programmes.”
The report continues: “Participation in union programmes will require the UK and UK beneficiaries to respect all relevant union legal provisions including co-financing. Accordingly, the eligibility to apply to participate in union programmes and union funding for UK participants and projects will be unaffected by the UK’s withdrawal from the union for the entire lifetime of such projects.”
On residency, the report says that EU citizens will retain the right to stay in the UK after Brexit, and that this right will be protected even if they are out of the UK for up to five years.
The announcements will give welcome reassurance to university staff and leaders, who have campaigned for freedom of movement to be upheld and for research funding to be protected after the UK’s departure.
Previous warnings posted on the EU’s website had suggested that UK bids for Horizon 2020 accepted after the Brexit date may be withdrawn without financial backing, but the Treasury responded with a pledge to underwrite applications for their duration.
Tim Bradshaw, the chief executive of the Russell Group, said: “The rights of citizens from other EU member states has been our first priority since the start of the Brexit process. Confirmation the withdrawal agreement will apply to all those arriving in the UK until the point of exit is helpful.
“We also welcome that people with settled status will be able to spend up to five consecutive years outside the UK without losing this status. This will help ensure future academic collaboration with international partners is not undermined. We would encourage the government to put the terms of the agreement on citizens’ rights into UK law as soon as possible.”
Dr Bradshaw said that the confirmation of the UK’s continuing participation in Horizon 2020 was “another big step forwards”.
Negotiating teams have now agreed that sufficient progress has been made to move on to discussions of a future trade relationship between the UK and EU nations.
Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, welcomed the progress that had been made on the deals, but stressed that phase two of the negotiations would be “hugely important” for the sector.
“To ensure universities can deliver maximum impact post-exit, this should include negotiating access to the next European research and innovation programme and to the Erasmus+ mobility programme,” he said. “Developing a post-exit immigration system, with minimal barriers to allow talented European staff and students to work and study in the UK, is a priority.”
Dr Bradshaw added: “As negotiations move into stage two, we need to see quick progress on an ambitious deal on research that helps us build on the close relationships that have been developed over the last 40 years. A comprehensive agreement on science that ensures joint working can continue for the long term would be a win-win for the UK and the EU.”