Mobility and the exchange of ideas
Mobility of researchers is undoubtedly one of the dominant concerns of the science and innovation community in relation to Brexit. We know that the ability to travel to, live in and bring your family to another country is a key part of scientists’ careers across academia and business. The research community stressed that easy and flexible movement of people is essential for science to advance. The Royal Society of Chemistry was one of 50 organisations from across Europe that signed the Future Partnerships statement, making clear the need to avoid barriers to movement of scientists between the UK and the EU to live and work.
It is through people across the world meeting to exchange ideas and knowledge that scientific discoveries will have the biggest benefit to humanity. Some of the MAC’s recommendations are helpful in this respect, in particular the recommendation to remove the cap on ‘tier 2’ visas for skilled workers.
Working with others, we are calling on the government to work closely with the science and innovation community as it develops the legislation for future migration arrangements. We will continue to argue that arrangements for scientists from the EEA – and indeed beyond – must be light-touch and allow easy movement, building on our evidence to the Science and Technology Select Committee on ‘An immigration regime for Science and Innovation’. We are keen to hear further evidence from our community on what a future UK immigration system should look like to maintain the UK’s global position in science and to boost productivity in our chemicals and pharmaceuticals sector, please e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org . It is clear that applying the existing non-EEA immigration regime to EEA citizens would be unsatisfactory.
What if there is no deal?
Regardless of whether there is a deal, the Home Office is developing a portal for EU citizens living in the UK to register for settled status or pre-settled status depending on time spent in the UK. The Home Office is piloting its portal in the North West of England, with the intention of rolling it out over the coming months. They will be asking all EU citizens to get settled or pre-settled status by the end of 2020.
The Government has published a series of ‘no deal’ documents, setting out the contingency arrangements in the event of the UK leaving the EU on 29th March 2019 without a deal in place. Some of the notes likely to be of interest to our community include the ones on chemicals regulation and REACH, intellectual property , medicines regulation, Horizon 2020 and the Government underwrite guarantee.
If there is no Brexit deal, or the UK is unable to continue to work with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) on chemicals regulation, the Government’s intention is to have a UK-REACH registration system for chemicals, with HSE as the authoritative body. Government will need to provide details in due course on registrations and requirements, as well as how scientific evaluations of new chemicals would be performed.
We continue to campaign for continued participation in the ECHA, to enable continued scientific collaboration to assess the safety of chemicals and support free and frictionless trade after 29th March 2019. We explain this in our recent response to the Environmental Audit Committee. The Government responded to our and others’ evidence by setting out its intention to seek this continued participation in the ECHA.
Horizon 2020 – and beyond
In the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, UK organisations will no-longer be eligible to receive future funding for projects from EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 and the European Regional Development Fund after 29th March 2019. The UK Government has issued a guarantee that “ensures that UK organisations, such as charities, businesses and universities, will continue to receive funding over a project’s lifetime if they successfully bid into EU-funded programmes before the end of 2020”.
The Government portal is now live for Horizon 2020 funded projects to register for this ‘underwrite guarantee’. Whilst we welcome the guarantee, we continue to raise concerns that some of the Horizon 2020 programme, such as European Research Council grants and consortium leadership are not covered. This means there is a real risk that UK and EU institutions will lose out: UK institutions led 20% of projects between 2014 and 2016. What may be even more worrying is that a no deal Brexit would surely hamper any efforts by the UK Government to associate to the next Framework programme – Horizon Europe.
We fear this could have negative consequences for UK and EU science, which we are investigating through member case studies. These are showing a range of ‘intangible’ benefits from participation in Horizon 2020. We are grateful to members who have taken part and look forward to sharing the findings. In the meantime, we continue to emphasise –to Government and others – the importance of a range of sources to fund science and facilitate collaboration, including EU programmes.