Last updated 28 April 2021.
The UK has now left the European Union. A UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement came into effect on 1 January 2021, which indicates the UK’s relationship with new EU programmes.
We strongly advise you to check regularly the Government pages signposted below for updates. The UK Government’s ‘Transition’ pages can now help you identify how the rule changes affect you.
The EU and the UK formally ratified a Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) on 27 April 2021. This sets the framework for their relationship after the post-Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020. The agreement confirms the UK’s access to Horizon Europe Programme, which was also approved by the European Parliament on 27 April 2021, in exchange for a budget contribution from the UK. Arrangements put in place during the transition period for current Horizon 2020 programmes are unaffected.
UK researchers can continue to coordinate or participate in Horizon 2020 programmes for the lifetime of individual projects. This includes where the project or funding call finishes after 1 January 2021.
There are a few exceptions to eligibility to receive funding; these are projects that involve security-related sensitive information and access to "blended finance" instruments for SMEs. For more information on UK participation in Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe, please visit the UKRI website.
Horizon Europe - an EU research and innovation programme
The UK will associate to Horizon Europe, giving UK scientists, researchers and businesses access to most parts of the €95.5bn 2021-2027 EU Framework Programme. The specific access arrangements are still being negotiated for the UK, but it does not include access to the newly established European Innovation Council fund.
- The European Commission has published a Q&A confirming that UK entities are eligible to apply from the first calls of the Horizon Europe Programme. The UKRI website is clear that UK researchers and innovators can apply to Horizon Europe schemes right away and do not need to wait for the EU to formalise association.
- To find out more about the new Horizon Europe Programmes see our Horizon Europe Webinar with speakers from Innovate UK and the UK Research Office.
International student exchange schemes
The UK has also chosen not to participate in the Erasmus+ student exchange scheme, instead launching the £100m Turing Scheme. The Welsh Government have also recently announced a new international learning exchange programme for Wales. Learners and staff from Wales and those who come to study or work in Wales will be able to participate in international exchanges in a similar way to the opportunities provided through Erasmus+. The scheme is currently in development and is expected to run from 2022.
What the Royal Society of Chemistry says
Association to Horizon Europe is the best option for UK science to preserve and enhance international research collaborations and the many other reciprocal benefits.
Mobility and migration
For EU, EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK
EU, EEA or Swiss citizens living in the UK who arrived by 31 December 2020 have until 30 June 2021 to register on the UK Government’s EU Settlement Scheme. There is no charge for registration.
You can view the Government's employer toolkit for the Scheme.
For UK citizens living in the EU
It is up to individual EU member states to decide their policy on non-EU citizen migration so checking with your employer and local embassy should be a priority. You can also read the UK Government’s full guidance.
Points based immigration in the UK
The UK Government implemented a new immigration system for EEA and non-EEA citizens wanting to work or study in the UK from 1 January 2021. Government advises employers who want access to the overseas skilled labour market to consider getting approved now as a visa sponsor. You can read more information for employers.
The new immigration systems contains points based and preferential routes. The most appropriate route will be dependent on the individual circumstances of the role or individual:
- Global Talent - you can apply for a Global Talent visa to work in the UK if you’re a leader or potential leader in one of the following fields: academia or research, arts and culture, digital technology
- Skilled Worker - a Skilled Worker Visa allows you to come to or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with an approved employer. This visa has replaced the Tier 2 (General) work visa
- International students and graduates you can apply for a Student visa to study in the UK if you’re 16 or over and you: have been offered a place on a course by a licensed student sponsor, have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course - the amount will vary depending on your circumstances, can speak, read, write and understand English, have consent from your parents if you’re 16 or 17 - you’ll need evidence of this when you apply
- Innovator - you can apply for an Innovator visa if;
- you want to set up and run an innovative business in the UK (it must be something that’s different from anything else on the market)
- your business or business idea has been endorsed by an approved body, also known as an endorsing body
- you meet the other eligibility requirements
What the Royal Society of Chemistry says
The UK immigration system should help employers to attract the skilled workers they need from the global talent pool by removing as many operational barriers as possible, decreasing associated costs and promoting a welcoming atmosphere. The UK should always seek ambitious reciprocal arrangements with future trading partners on short and long-term mobility for scientists and researchers.
For chemicals businesses
Businesses that make, sell or distribute chemicals into Great Britain need to follow the UK’s new domestic chemicals regulations, including UK REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) from 1 January 2021. Businesses selling into the EU and into Northern Ireland will need to continue to meet the requirements of EU chemicals regulation and EU REACH.
The government has produced new guidance for businesses in relation to chemicals and trade operation within the UK from 1 January 2021.
There are administrative tasks you will need to do now, to enable continued trade between the UK and EU and to satisfy the requirements of chemicals regulations as applied in Great Britain.
If your business moves goods in or out of the UK but does not currently have an Economics Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number, you will need to get one. Find out more information on EORI on Gov.uk.
Regulatory decision making
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE), together with the Environment Agency, will act as the regulatory ‘Agency’ for chemicals in the UK. Detailed UK REACH guidance (UK Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of Chemicals) is available on the Health and Safety Executive website.
You can access the Comply with UK REACH IT service via Chemicals Gov.uk.
The Comply with UK REACH system is live and can be used by business to fulfil transitional provisions and create new chemicals registrations. The new system enables the UK to make decisions on regulation of chemicals that are based on the best available scientific evidence, ensuring that chemicals remain safely used and managed.
The HSE guidance covers the areas of UK REACH, classification labelling and packaging (CLP), prior informed consent (PIC) for export and import of hazardous substances, biocidal products regulation (BPR) and plant protection product (PPP) regulations and detergents. The HSE will be responsible for these chemicals regulations as implemented in Great Britain.
The UK no longer has any legal representation in regulatory decision-making on chemicals in the EU. The new UK-EU trade and cooperation agreement allows for non-confidential data sharing and dialogue between the UK and EU, but the UK will now take independent decisions on chemical restrictions and authorisations.
The Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will be responsible for various regulations covering products containing chemicals. Please see the guidance for businesses on product safety.
The government has also established the UK National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) comprising the British Standards Institute, Office for Product Safety and Standards, National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and UKAS (UK Accreditation Scheme). This body will oversee standards setting, measurement, accreditation, conformity assessment and market surveillance.
Northern Ireland will continue to follow the rules of the EU single market. Advice can be found at ECHA.
UK Chemicals helpline
Defra, as the UK government policy lead for chemicals, has launched the UK Chemicals Helpline to support businesses. It runs Monday – Friday 9am-5pm and the number is 0330 159 1985.
What the Royal Society of Chemistry says
We expect high standards of human health and environmental protection to continue in the UK, as informed by the best science. Formal mechanisms to ensure the best scientific evidence and advice is taken into account into decision-making for chemicals policy must be in place as soon as possible in 2021. We encourage active cooperation between the UK and EU on chemicals in terms of data sharing and technical cooperation.
Our policy position in the link below highlights some things that still need to be considered if regulatory divergence from the EU on chemicals arises from 2021.
RSC position on Regulatory divergence in the chemicals sector
As the UK develops a new chemicals strategy as part of the 25-year Plan for the Environment, we will continue to provide thought leadership and evidence.
Our work on Chemicals Strategy
Our Brexit Guidance Webinar on Chemicals Regulation
How the Royal Society of Chemistry can help
We are committed to supporting our members through these preparations and we will update this page as significant developments occur. Given the nature of the Brexit negotiations, your first port of call should be your employer and Government information on Brexit preparedness.
However, there may be some queries that are not answered by your employer or the government advice. In this situation, the RSC Chemists’ Community Fund may be able to help you.