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Policy and funding

Physics following a ‘no deal’ Brexit

10 September 2019

IOP briefing paper considers the ways in which a ‘no deal’ Brexit could affect the UK physics community.

The IOP has produced a briefing paper on the ways in which a ‘no deal’ Brexit will affect the UK physics community, and the steps being taken by the UK government and the EU to mitigate negative consequences.

The prospect of the UK leaving the bloc without a deal is becoming increasingly likely as the UK and the EU fail to make progress resolving key issues such as the Irish backstop and delivering support for a deal in parliament.

A ‘no deal’ Brexit would have a significant impact on science in the UK, including loss of access to key funding streams and the immediate end to free movement.

The UK would also immediately leave Euratom. It remains unclear if there would be access to European research facilities, and what access international researchers would have to UK research facilities.

Horizon 2020

UK organisations would only be eligible for bids open to ‘third country participation’. The Royal Society estimates that the funding loss would equate to around €500m. The government has created guarantees that would cover: successful bids submitted before Brexit; ‘in flight’ bids; and successful third country participation bids.

Horizon Europe

The government is considering association, along with other alternatives, with a final report in September.


Legislation covering the end of free movement and a new legal framework would take several years to finalise, with the EU Settlement Scheme as a stopgap for non-UK EU nationals living and working here. EU citizens (except for Irish nationals) would have until 31 December 2020 to apply, while new arrivals would need to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain for up to 36 months (which isn’t long enough for students with four-year courses). UK citizens would be able to travel within Schengen countries for 90 days out of any 180 without a visa, but it’s not clear what would be in place for non-Schengen EU countries.


The UK would lose membership of the Euratom Research and Training programme and Fusion for Energy. The government is implementing a similar process to Horizon 2020 to cover funding for Euratom Research and Training grant beneficiaries. This would cover successful bids on third country participation projects, from exit day to the end of 2020. The government has confirmed that it will continue to fund its share of Joint European Torus (JET) costs until the end of 2020 and has expressed willingness to discuss keeping JET operational beyond that.

International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER)

The government is exploring alternative options to maintain UK participation in ITER. The employment contracts of UK nationals directly employed by ITER will be valid until their agreed end date, along with contracts/agreements signed by ITER with UK operators.

European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERICs)

A statutory instrument ensures ongoing involvement in ERICs and ensures that ERICs will have the same legal attributes. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) ministers will be able to join new ERICs using the Royal Prerogative.

European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI)

Currently, only EU member states and countries associated to Horizon 2020 are members of ESFRI. The UK would therefore lose its membership.

Read the briefing paper in full (PDF, 433KB).