Brexit negotiations: First phase ends on a positive note for universities

11 December 2017

On 8 December 2017, the European Commission and the British government declared that they had reached an agreement on citizens’ rights after Brexit, the status of the Irish border, and the financial settlement. EU member states’ leaders still have to formally agree to it at the summit on 15 December, but it is very likely that they will follow the recommendations by the European Commission. This means that the second phase of negotiations, dedicated to the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union after March 2019, can begin next year.

The joint report with the details of the agreement between the UK and the European Commission importantly states that the UK will continue to pay according to the commitments made in the 2014-2020 EU’s financial framework, which include Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+. This means that UK universities can fully participate in both programmes until they end, even after the UK will have left the EU.

EU citizens working at universities in the UK will be able to enjoy the same rights after Brexit as they do now, as will UK citizens working at universities in the EU.

The agreement is still dependent on the final outcome of the negotiations at the end of the second phase, but the decisions are likely to remain.

EUA welcomes the agreement as the Association has argued since the Brexit referendum that continued participation in EU framework programmes and Erasmus is not only possible, but also a cornerstone in maintaining ties between universities in the UK and the rest of Europe.

The agreement also opens the way for a smooth transition from the present programmes to the next generation of programmes for research and education.

EUA calls on the European Council and the European Parliament to work towards this transition by including a comprehensive agreement on academic cooperation between the EU and the UK as an explicit goal for the next phase of the negotiations. Such an agreement should preferably be concluded at an early stage, in order to provide the basis for the long-term planning that is needed in academic cooperation and diminish uncertainty for universities, their students and staff on both sides.

EUA is using its expertise in higher education and research policy to follow Brexit’s potential impact on the higher education sector. The Association has also published several statements and factsheets, which can be accessed on our Brexit issue page.

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