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Earma 2019: No-deal Brexit ‘painful for everybody’

The UK crashing out of the EU without a deal would require “a lot of work” rewriting EU research consortium grant agreements, the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators annual conference has heard.

“It’s going to be a pain for everybody” in a consortium with a British organisation, Gill Wells, head of the European and international team in the research support office of the University of Oxford in the UK said at the Earma meeting on 29 March.

“Every consortium agreement may well need to be amended” in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Wells said, adding that the work will fall on the project coordinator. She said that the University of Oxford has estimated it will take 10 full-time staff working for six months to deal with changes needed to its consortium agreements.

At the moment universities do not even know exactly what the European Commission will require of them, she said, for example around pre-financing, and whether this would have to be returned. “It’s possibly out of their hands,” she warned. “It may end up being politically driven.”

UK Research and Innovation, the UK umbrella funder, is not even allowed to discuss this with the Commission, she said. The Commission will not allow such discussions until the UK’s exit from the EU is resolved.

Wells spoke at a Brexit-themed panel session on the same day that the UK parliament was due to vote for the third time on the withdrawal agreement reached between the EU and the British government, which has been rejected twice already by the parliament. A favourable vote could pave the way for an orderly Brexit that would give the UK full participation in EU programmes until the end of 2020, solving all the no-deal problems.

“We all hope things will be sorted at the eleventh hour, and they still might,” Wells said.

More news from Earma.

A version of this article also appeared in Research Europe