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No EU-UK research deal before 2019, says Barnier

EU chief negotiator says there will be no clarity on the future research relationship until there is an agreement on citizenship

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The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier does not expect a deal between the EU and UK on science to be finalised before the UK leaves the bloc in 2019.

“I understand that universities are keen to have clarity as soon as possible with regard to the future relationship that they will find themselves in. [But] I do not expect negotiations to bring clarity on these and a plethora of other issues in the immediate future,” Barnier told the 7th State of the Union conference at the European University Institute in Florence last week.

The scope of the upcoming talks will cover the terms of the UK divorce and not future ties on research, Barnier said.

The EU’s priorities in the Brexit negotiations are a reciprocal agreement on citizens’ rights; avoiding the need for a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; and agreeing an exit fee. These three must be agreed before any discussions on trade or other issues.

Britain will leave the EU on March 30, 2019. After this date, proposals for a trade deal and other arrangements will be assessed.

The UK has not ruled out continued participation in EU research programmes – the next one, FP9, starts in 2021 – or the Erasmus student exchange programme, which gives students the opportunity to spend time studying abroad.

It will be open to the UK to pursue a relationship with the EU along the lines of other non-EU countries, such as Norway, Israel and Switzerland, Barnier said. “One option is that the UK could decide to continue to support university networking and joint projects as a third country after Brexit, but this would require a different legal and financial framework.

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Related subjects: Brexit

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In October 2016, the Science|Network of universities, companies and innovation organisations gathered in Brussels to debate the future of EU R&D programmes. The result: A profusion of ideas, recommendations and warnings for the future of EU research and innovation.