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Geoscience and the EU Referendum

EU Referendum

The referendum took place on Thursday 23 June, 2016 and the electorate delivered a 'Leave' result with 51.9% of the vote. 


As at March 2018, government planning and negotiations with the EU are expected to continue for the next several months at least. We will be monitoring developments and updating the members via this resource page. 

Horizon 2020Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy - UK Participation in Horizon 2020, March 2018

An overview of the UK’s relationship with Horizon 2020 followed by a Q&A, which clarifies the UK’s eligibility to participate in Horizon 2020.

The report can be found on the government website.

The UK Government has announced that it will guarantee Horizon 2020 funding until the end of the programme, showing ongoing commitment to international engagement on research and innovation.  Find out more on the

White Paper on the Future Relationship with the EUUK Government White paper - The Future Relationship Between the United Kingdom and the European Union – Published July 2018

In July 2018 the UK Government published a white paper on ‘The Future Relationship Between the United Kingdom and the European Union’. This is being negotiated with the EU together with the agreement on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. 

The white paper on the future relationship sets out the principles that will guide their approach in negotiations and includes the following principles relevant to the geoscience community.

  • Establishing a series of cooperative accords for science, education and space.
  • Science and innovation
    • Including an accord that provides for UK participation in EU research funding programmes
    • Enables continued cooperation through joint participation in networks, infrastructure, policies and agencies which are to the UK’s and the EU’s joint benefit
  • Commitment to high regulatory environmental standards through a non-regression requirement
  • Maintaining of high standards on climate change, noting the UK’s world leading ambitions
  • The White Paper: The future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union.pdf

CaSE - Brexit Report

CaSE Logo Earlier in 2018, the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) published a Brexit report including asks from the science and engineering sector, on the areas of people, funding and regulation. These include a series of recommendations relating to securing an ambitious agreement on research and innovation with the EU and coordinating government efforts to unleash science and engineering potential.

You can read more about the Brexit report on the CaSE website.

Brexit and Geoscience Policy

The policy team have been busy responding to a number of parliamentary inquiries relating to the EU Referendum. Inquiry topics include science and research, climate change policy, energy policy and the future of the natural environment. Many of these responses included the comments and data that we collected as part of the EU survey that we conducted in 2015. Our policy responses that relate to the UK leaving the EU are listed below:

You can find all of our responses on the policy area of the website. If you have any questions or comments regarding the above responses, please contact the policy team at

Parliamentary and Scientific Committee - Science Priorities for Brexit

Science Priorities for Brexit Report At the end of March, Stephen Metcalfe MP, the Chair of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee launched a report on the Science priorities for Brexit which featured the below text:

UK research and innovation allows us to compete on the global stage as an outward-looking nation that works with others around the world to tackle global challenges such as climate change and antimicrobial resistance and develop technologies and products that improve people’s lives around the globe.

The strength of UK research and innovation can be maintained and grown with the right mix of skilled people, investment, networks and collaboration, and regulation and trade.

The report was informed by advice and evidence from the research and innovation community and will be a useful document for framing the importance of science and research in the next parliament.

You can read the Science priorities for Brexit report on the Science in Parliament website.

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy - Statement on higher education and research following the EU referendum

On the 28 June Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, made a statement on Higher education and research following the EU Referendum result. The statement covers student finance for EU nationals in England, EU student and staff status, Erasmus and Horizon 2020 research funding. The key points made are:

  • EU students who are eligible under current rules to receive loans and grants from the Student Loans Company will continue to do so for courses they are currently enrolled on or about to start this coming year.
  • The Master’s Loans launched today are also still available to eligible EU students.
  • EU students will continue to receive funding for the duration of their courses. Information on the eligibility criteria, including residency rules, is available.
  • There will be no immediate changes in the circumstances of British citizens living in the EU, and European citizens living here.
  • There will be no immediate change to visa policies including for students, visitors, businesses and entrepreneurs who are already in the UK or wish to come here.
  • The referendum result does not affect students studying in the EU, beneficiaries of Erasmus+ or those considering applying in 2017. The UK’s future access to the Erasmus+ programme will be determined as a part of wider discussions with the EU.
  • The referendum result has no immediate effect on those applying to or participating in Horizon 2020.

You can find this statement and other information about the impact of Brexit on Higher Education on the Government website

Message to Fellows from Former President Malcolm Brown

In the fortnight following the vote, the then President of the Society, Malcolm Brown, sent a message to Fellows advising on how the outcome may affect the Society and geoscience activities in the UK.

The message can be found below. 

Firstly, I would like to assure all Fellows that the result will in no way affect our international outlook, or the esteem in which our Society and Fellowship are held worldwide. Nor will it affect the international recognition of Chartered Geologist or Chartered Scientist status.

The Society will remain a full and active member of the European Federation of Geologists (EFG), the umbrella organisation for professional geoscience bodies across Europe, several of which are from non-EU countries. We will continue to work with the EFG on a wide range of matters relating to the profession, including mobility of the geoscience workforce across Europe and beyond, and to award the title of European Geologist (EurGeol) under licence from EFG as at present.

Depending on the nature of the UK’s future deal with the EU, the referendum result could present significant changes and challenges to the UK’s science community. Research funding, freedom of movement, the economy and environmental policy may all be affected. We are working with the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), other learned societies and similar organisations, and through our links in the devolved nations of the UK, to ensure the voices of geoscientists are heard during the negotiations and adjustments ahead.

We are still at a very early stage in the process of leaving the European Union. We will be monitoring developments and updating Fellows and others in the geoscience community via the resource page on our website: as matters become clearer. On 28 June Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, made a statement on higher education and research following the EU Referendum result, setting out initial assurances about EU nationals and student finance in England, EU student and staff status, the Erasmus exchange programme and Horizon 2020 research funding.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has announced an inquiry into the implications of leaving the EU for science and research. The Society will respond to this inquiry – if there are points you wish to suggest for inclusion in our response please email

EU Survey 

In May 2016 the Geological Society ran a survey to gauge what the impact of a 'Leave' vote would be on the the geoscience employment sector. The survey had over 1100 respondents from a broad range of employment sectors. Of the 863 people that answered the question:

'What impact will leaving the European Union have on your employment sector'?

62.5% said it would have a slightly negative or very negative impact on their sector of work.

You can read more about the results of the survey on the Society blog

Geological Society Responses On EU Membership and Freedom of Movement 

In preparation for the referendum, many science organisations examined evidence and prepared reports on how the results of the referendum would affect UK science and industry. The Society has put together and contributed to a number of responses on the areas of immigration, research funding and freedom of movement and how changes to these areas will impact on the geoscience and broader science community. You can find a list of our relevant work as well as some useful links and resources below. 

HoL Science and Technology Committee - Relationship between EU membership and UK science and engineering - Call for evidence

EU FlagThe House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has launched an inquiry into the 'Relationship between EU membership and UK science and engineering'. The committee is hearing evidence on this relationship ahead of the EU referendum scheduled for this parliament. You can find out more about the inquiry on the committee website.

The Geological Society made a written submission which can be found below.

GSL written submission to the Science and Technology Committee.


Migration Advisory Committee - Review of Tier 2

Migration Advisory Committee LogoIn July last year the Migration Advisory Committee launched a review into the Tier 2 route of immigration and visa policy. This is the route by which many researchers and skilled workers enter the country. Details of the review are available on the Government website.

Our submission was prepared in collaboration with University Geoscience UK, the Royal Astronomical Society and the British Geophysical Association and can be found below. 

GSL written submission to the Migration Advisory Committee


Campaign for Science and Engineering - Immigration and its impact on UK science survey

CaSE Logo

In late 2015 the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), of which the Society is an organisational member, published a  report on the Role of EU membership in UK science and engineering research. The report is available on the CaSE website.

They also launched a survey on 'Immigration and its impact on UK science'. The survey was a call for evidence to contribute to a CaSE report that was published in early 2016. You can find out more about the survey on the CaSE website.

The Geological Society made a written submission which can be found below.

GSL written submission to CaSE.

Other Resources

Nature - Academics across Europe join 'Brexit' debate 

Times Higher Education - Science Minister Jo Johnson: Brexit would damage UK science

Conservative Home - Making the environmentalist case for remaining in the EU

Green Alliance - Seven things you should know about the EU and the environment

The London School of Economics and Political Science Blog - Debunking the myths about British science after an EU exit

The Carbon Brief - Interview with Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Lisa Nandy where she discusses impact of the EU referendum on energy and climate change policy. 

The Guardian - Why the EU out campaign should be worried about science

Wired - What would an EU exit mean for UK Science and Tech

Scientists for EU - A group campaigning for continued EU membership.