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Brexit phase one deal viewed as positive news for universities

By Benjamin G M Meunier, on 14 December 2017

Ahead of the European Council tomorrow, I am writing with a brief summary on the agreement which was signed off in the early hours of Friday 8th December, when Prime Minister Theresa May and Jean-Claude Junker agreed a deal on key issues to enable discussions to move on to Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

The joint report published by the British Government and EU negotiators has been broadly welcomed by Universities UK and the Russell Group, as good news for universities on key issues, including:

  • progress on securing the residency rights of other EU citizens living in the UK
  • the UK’s continuation in existing EU programmes fostering collaboration between institutions, including Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+, and
  • the European Investment Bank.

Universities UK welcome in particular “the fact that agreement has finally been reached which should ensure that the 46,000 other EU nationals working across the university sector can remain in the UK indefinitely. In addition, we are encouraged that today’s agreement offers further clarity that UK universities, students and researchers will continue to be able to participate in incredibly valuable programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ until their end dates.” Jo Johnson has confirmed that UK organisations and individuals will have continued full access to Horizon 2020 for the duration of the programme, until the end of 2020. It is also helpful that the cut-off point for EU nationals to be covered by the agreement has been agreed as the date the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, rather than earlier dates which have been mooted. People with settled status will be able to spend up to five consecutive years outside of the UK without losing this status.

One caveat on the deal, even after its expected ratification at the EU summit tomorrow is that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, meaning that some aspects of the phase 1 deal may be revisited. However, there is a widely-shared sense of hope from EU and UK parties that the key issues around citizens’ rights and continuing budgetary contributions will not be jeopardised by the next phase of negotiations.

Hopefully, colleagues affected by Brexit will feel that the greater sense of clarity emerging from the negotiations provides some comfort, after a protracted period of uncertainty. Earlier this week, the Prime Minister wrote a letter to EU citizens in the UK to reiterate that the rights of EU citizens in the UK and those of UK nationals living in EU countries were now secured, and provide reassurance for the future.

For further advice, UCL Library Services staff can refer to the EU referendum portal: www.ucl.ac.uk/eu-referendum. You may also access personal support from the University’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) on a confidential basis. Support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year for staff.

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