On 31/01/2020 the United Kingdom (UK) has ceased to be a member state of the European Union. Before the end of the transition period, the EU and the UK must not only clarify the modalities of withdrawal but also negotiate an agreement governing their future relations.

The UK has been the third most popular destination for Erasmus+ exchange students and a key partner in EU research programmes.

What does the transition period mean for Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020?

The current transition phase began on 01.02.2020 and will in all probability end on 31.12.2020. In the meantime nothing will change. All EU rules continue to apply to the UK during this period. The country has pledged to meet its payment obligations for the EU budget 2014-2020.

  • UK institutions can continue to participate in programmes such as Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 until the end of the current programme generation.
  • EU funding for the projects 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 funded under the Erasmus+ 2020 call can now run for 34 months instead of the usual 24 months. The arrangement made against the background of the Covid-19 pandemic allows for an extension of the duration period until 31 March 2023 at the latest.
  • Erasmus+ cooperation projects in the funding lines of key actions 2 and 3 and Erasmus Mundus as well as Jean Monnet activities funded under the current generation of programmes are also eligible for EU funding for the entire project duration of two to three years.

By 31 October 2020 at the latest, a joint legal text must be finalised so that both sides can ratify the agreement before the end of the transition period. Failure to do so could lead to another so-called "no-deal-Brexit" by 31 December 2020, under which the UK would revert to the status of a third country; without any form of EU partnership.

Current status of negotiations:

  • A total of six rounds of negotiations ended in July without any significant results. Even a summit meeting on 15 June between Commission President von der Leyen, Council President Michel and British Prime Minister Johnson did not bring the desired momentum to the negotiations (Link). The next round of negotiations is scheduled for mid August.
  • The British government has officially declared that it will not request an extension of the transitional period (Link). On the EU side, the chances for a successful conclusion of the negotiations are now viewed sceptically (Link).
  • Against this background, the participation of the United Kingdom in the new programme generation of Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe (2021-2027) - in particular, a possible association of the UK to EU programmes, as is currently the case for Norway - is still open. The European Commission also points this out in a communication with which it would like to help the EU Member States to prepare for the legal changes after the end of the transitional period. It literally says: "One example of such uncertainty is what will happen with a possible UK participation in Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe as of January 2021. Only the outcome of ongoing negotiations can lift such uncertainty." To the communication

What are the perspectives for Erasmus+ and Horizon Europe?

Position of the European Union

The EU's draft agreement on the new partnership with the United Kingdom covers all areas of negotiations, including participation in EU programmes:

  • There should be no discrimination between EU Member States in the mobility, especially of students and researchers within the framework of EU programmes.
  • EU citizens must not be subject to unjustified administrative or financial burdens when travelling to and within the UK.
  • Participants should have the same rights as British citizens in the implementation of the programmes, including with regard to any fees associated with participation in an activity funded by the programme.

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 exceeding 90 days for the purpose of study or research.

Earlier this year, Commission President von der Leyen 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).

Position of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom indicates in its negotiation directives that it will consider participating as a third country in selected EU programmes, including the future EU research framework programme Horizon Europe, if it is in the mutual interest of both parties.

For Erasmus+, options for participation in parts of the programme for a limited period of time will be considered, provided that the conditions for participation are in line with British interests.

More on the UK's position

Further Informationen