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How Brexit Will Affect the UK and EU Scientific Industry

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On January 23, 2019

With all the media attention and speculation revolving around Brexit, practically every outcome has been considered. The consequences for education, immigration and travel are highly debated. It seems as though every industry has been analyzed for potential changes Brexit may bring, but what about the impact to the science industry?

Here’s a more in-depth look as to how Brexit might affect the UK and EU scientific industry:


Where Does the Scientific Industry Currently Stand?

The EU funds a lot of the scientific research undertaken by UK scientists, allowing them more freedom to explore different avenues and alternatives, in medicine and beyond. In the past, UK scientists have had great success in bidding for various European research grants, winning a total of 4.6bn euros since 2014 from their Horizon 2020 initiative. The two have a great relationship, and the UK scientific industry benefits a lot from EU funding.


The Consequences a No-Deal Brexit

It could be catastrophic for the UK science industry if relations were to break down post-Brexit, especially if it ends up being a no-deal outcome. The campaign group ‘Scientists for EU’ have stated that the UK would no longer be eligible to apply for three of the EU’s major funding programmes as a result. One of the activists in the group Scientists for EU suggests a no-deal Brexit would “mean losing over half a billion a year in high-value grants”.

Furthermore, the Horizon 2020 programme that the UK has previously had a lot of funding from may no longer be an option. One of the conditions of the grant is that the coordinator must be from an EU member state or from a developing country. This could present problems in the future if a no-deal Brexit occurs, as it could leave them at risk of not being able to get access to funding.


A Loss of Talented Researchers

Not only might the Scientific Industry suffer a blow in terms of funding, but it may also struggle when it comes to researchers. Scientific research can only happen if there is a team of talented scientist on board. Possible immigration issues could hamper intelligent scientists from entering the UK. Without their wealth of experience, diversity, and skills, the future of the science industry in the UK seems turbulent.

Depending on the outcome, it may be possible that staff already in the EU will have to apply to retain their positions. There is no guarantee that they would be able to re-secure their job. Additionally, it may be off-putting for EU scientists who want to work in the UK. Not only has the process been made more difficult, but they may feel hostility upon entering.


What Happens Next?

It’s a crucial time for the UK and EU scientific industries, and for many in the UK, the hope is that the government can negotiate a deal that ensures their good working relationship. The feeling from the Government is very much the same, as they work to guarantee an agreement that would ensure the UK’s participation in Horizon 2020 would be unaffected when they leave the EU.


The Future Relationship of EU and UK Science

Contrary to the Scientists for EU’s stance, Leave campaigners have long maintained that the UK leaving the EU will actually benefit the UK. This is because they will be free from EU regulations, leaving them more open to collaborations outside of Europe. However, there are no certainties when it comes to where the UK science industry will stand after Brexit, and a great deal depends on the type of deal negotiated.

Last modified: January 23, 2019

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