Universities UK (UUK) continue to work closely with the Government to address areas of concern for higher education in relation to Brexit. Below you can read about some of the work they have been progressing on.
1. Prime Minister’s Florence speech
- On 22 September, the Prime Minister gave a speech in Florence setting out plans for a ‘new era of cooperation and partnership between the UK and the EU’.
- One of the most substantial proposals put forward was a call for a post-Brexit ‘implementation period’ of around two years after March 2019, during which time freedom of movement will still be in place, (although there will be a requirement for EU nationals arriving during this period to register, a measure previously outlined by Home Secretary Amber Rudd in a letter to the Migration Advisory Committee).
- The proposal for an implementation period, including of this length, aligns closely with requests made in the UUK’s paper on Brexit stability measures, which UUK have been discussing with key parliamentarians and officials across government in recent months. Theresa May also announced that, during a transition period, the UK will honour commitments made during the period of EU membership. Although subject to negotiation, such a scenario could include continued access to, and participation in, Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ until the end of the programmes, UUK are seeking further clarification from government officials on the implications of this position for the sector.
- In response to the Prime Minister’s call for a transition period, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, made clear that sufficient progress has still not been made on priority matters in order for discussions about trade, transition and the future UK-EU relationship to begin.
- UUK are continuing to highlight with the government the growing urgency to shore up stability and certainty in the short- to medium-term.
2. Citizens’ rights
- Progress was made towards an agreement on citizens’ rights during a round of Brexit negotiations, however a final guarantee has still not been secured, with the role of the European Court of Justice post-Brexit remaining a key stumbling block.
- UUK are aware of the importance of being able to provide the 46,000 EU nationals working in the university sector with the security they need around their future, and are continuing to highlight in communications with government that this matter must continue to be prioritised and an agreement reached as soon as possible that guarantees: full access to public services; an assurance that UK-based EU researchers seeking to obtain ‘settled status’ won’t be penalised for spending periods out of the country, and for and a guarantee not to introduce a retrospective cut-off date for eligibility.
- UUK continue to lobby the government to strengthen its existing guarantee that underwrites Erasmus+ student mobility grants to include those university students who started their degrees this autumn 2017.
- Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive Universities UK, has spoken with Jo Johnson MP about this issue and has written to David Davis MP to highlight the issues.
4. Media activity
- The possible impact of Brexit on universities has continued to feature in the news. Alistair Jarvis spoke with The Sunday Times about the possible impact of Brexit on the Erasmus+ exchange programme. The story (3 Sep) warned that ‘Brexit casts shadow over Erasmus scheme’, with a focus on the need for government to take urgent action to address the current uncertainty faced by students starting this autumn on a course with a mandatory period abroad through the scheme in 2019/20.
- Alistair Jarvis also wrote a comment article for Times Higher Education, stressing that UK universities urgently need several assurances over Brexit, drawing largely on the set of stability measures that were approved by the UUK Board.
- The UK's position paper on a post-Brexit science partnership also generated coverage. Universities UK responded, urging the UK government to 'negotiate access to, and influence over, the next EU research and innovation programme'.