To implement the referendum result, the UK government must initiate the negotiation for the UK’s exit from the EU, which then must be completed in two years. After those two years, UK organisations would no longer receive H2020 grants, unless the negotiation agrees otherwise.
The resignation of the UK prime minister means that a replacement must be appointed before the UK can initiate the exit negotiation. The earliest this can happen is October 2016, giving an end date for UK participation in H2020 of October 2018.
Whether an end date of October 2018 means that all funding – including for running projects – ceases at that date is not pre-defined, but depends on the results of the exit negotiation. When Switzerland held its referendum on free movement of labour and was excluded from much EU research funding, all grant agreements signed at the time were funded by the EU until their completion.
In 2015, 44% of UK exports of goods and services went to the EU. So the UK will want to conclude a trade agreement with the EU before it completes its exit negotiation. Trade deals often take years to prepare: a recent one between the EU and Canada took three to four years to draw up and is still not signed. So it is likely that the new UK prime minister will delay initiating the exit negotiation by a year or two, until the outline of a trade deal with the EU has been agreed.
As a result, instead of negotiating the UK’s exit, EU and UK politicians are now negotiating about when the exit negotiation will begin!
Niels Bohr reportedly said that “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future”. Currently, it seems likely that H2020 will be business as usual for UK organisations at least until some time in 2019 or 2020, and that projects awarded grants up to that time will be funded by the EU until their completion.
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