On 31/01/2020 the United Kingdom has ceased to be a member state of the European Union. Brexit, that had been debated for years, has become reality. A transition period has started on 01/02/2020 and will last until 31/12/2020. What does this mean now?

Until the end of the transition period all EU rules will continue to apply to the United Kingdom. Under the agreement, the UK has promised to meet its payment obligations for the EU budget 2014-2020. Before the end of the transition period, the EU and the UK have to negotiate an agreement governing their future relations. Failure to do so would revert the UK to the status of a third country on 01/01/2021. An extension of the transitional period is legally possible but has so far been ruled out by the British Prime Minister.

Status Quo on Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020

The UK is the third most popular country of destination for Erasmus+ students and an important partner in the EU research programme.

Ratification of the exit agreement allows UK institutions to continue to participate in Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 until the end of the current programme generation (2014-2020).

EU funding for projects under the current generation is secured for their entire duration, including beyond 2020. Only in the case of security-relevant research projects with sensitive data the EU Commission reserves itself the right to terminate the partnership with the United Kingdom prematurely.

Mobility projects under Erasmus+ generally have a duration of two years; projects approved in 2020 will therefore be able to continue until June 2022. Cooperation projects of KA 2 and 3, awarded in 2020, as well as Erasmus Mundus and Jean Monnet activities are equally eligible for EU funding for the entire project duration of two or three years.

Open questions

At this stage, however, it is unclear if the UK will issue any new rules for the residence of EU citizens in Great Britain as of 2021. This may also affect Erasmus+ students and university staff.

A potential participation of the UK in the new generation of Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe (2021-2027) is still open. Commission President von der Leyen, however, expressed the wish that in future “as many study exchanges and joint research projects as possible are feasible for young people in the EU and the UK” (to the speech).

A potential association of the UK to the programmes, such as it is currently the case for other third countries, depends on the outcomes of negotiations for a partnership agreement between the EU and the UK. This agreement will probably provide a framework under which programme-specific association agreements could be negotiated.

Current state of the negotiations:

Negotiations between the EU and the UK started in early March. At the end of March the Commission published a draft agreement on the new partnership with the United Kingdom. It covers all areas of negotiations, including participation in EU programmes (Protocol I - not yet published).

  • The EU proposal stipulates that, in particular for student and researcher mobility under EU programmes, there should be no discrimination of EU Member States in mobility, and that EU citizens should not be subject to unjustified administrative or financial burdens when travelling to and within the UK.
  • Furthermore, participants should have the same rights as British citizens in the implementation of the programmes. In particular, all fees relating to participation in an activity funded by the programme are mentioned here.

Outside the EU programmes, the draft contains provisions on the mobility of students and researchers. The Parties should reciprocally guarantee provisions on entry and residence in the other country for a period of more than 90 days for the purpose of study or research.

Overview of further rounds of negotiations

The EU Commission and the United Kingdom met on 30 March for the first meeting of the Joint Committee on the implementation and application of the withdrawal agreement and agreed to set up six working groups on key issues including one on "other separation provisions" which will also deal with the UK's participation in EU programmes (Link).

At the second meeting on 20 April the EU and UK agreed on further rounds of negotiations by videoconference for 11 May and 1 June (Link).

In terms of content there has been little progress in the negotiations on future relations. Michel Barnier expressed his concern about this, as London continues to reject an extension of the transition period, which would have to be done by 30 June at the latest. This means that the transition period will probably end on 31 December 2020 - and the United Kingdom will leave the EU internal market - with all negative consequences also for the country's future participation in EU programmes such as Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe. Barnier criticised that Great Britain on the one hand firmly rejects an extension of the transition period, but on the other hand does not engage in substantive talks (Link).

In the Political Declaration on future relations, both sides agreed to take stock of the results of the negotiations at a high-level meeting in late June (Link).

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