Government lays out papers summarising no-deal Brexit planning

The Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) has published the first batch of papers laying out plans in the possible event of a no-deal Brexit.

The 25 papers are the first of approximately 80 notices expected to be published over the coming weeks.

This first batch of papers covers EU-funded programmes, the nuclear industry, agriculture, trade, product labelling, tax and finance, the medical industry, state aid, higher education and workplace rights. They lay out the changes to funding, regulation and access expected in the case of a no-deal Brexit and in most cases state that the government has plans in place to cover losses with resources and regulation sourced from the UK.

According to the papers, British organisations may be unable to access EU Horizon 2020 research funding following the UK’s departure from the bloc. Chancellor Philip Hammond, has previously indicated that the government may cover funding for some EU projects if bids are submitted before 29 March 2019, although this would not cover the UK teams’ collaborators abroad.

“UK Research & Innovation will be developing systems to ensure payments to beneficiaries of Horizon 2020 funding can continue,” the report says.

However, Scientists 4 EU, a pro-EU campaign group representing researchers, has argued that the government undermined its commitment to Horizon 2020 by suggesting that the UK may not continue to honour its payment obligations to the programme and instructing UK scientists to stop writing Horizon 2020 grant applications.

The UK would also leave Euratom, the European Atomic Energy Community responsible for coordinating nuclear research and safety in the energy sector. The UK would no longer be eligible to receive funding for European nuclear projects, such as the community’s research and training programme. The papers restate the government’s commitment to supporting Euratom projects in the UK, such as the Joint European Torus: a major fusion research facility based in Oxfordshire.

Importing nuclear materials vital for the energy supply agency may also require a licence in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The government states that it is preparing to continue Euratom’s work in the UK by legislating for the UK nuclear regulator (the Office for Nuclear Regulation) to oversee domestic safeguards and take on many of Euratom's responsibilities. The Office for Nuclear Regulation has warned that it could be facing a post-Brexit skills crisis as it is forced to take on extra responsibilities and as many experienced inspectors leave the organisation, leading to a “thinning of our overall regulatory capability” in coming years.

With regard to the medical industry, drugs and other supplies may need to undergo new assessments in order to become accessible to UK patients, while the UK drugs regulator (The Medicines Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) will be forced to take on the responsibilities of the EU regulator.

In a speech this morning laying out the government’s contingency plans, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab added that six weeks’ worth of medical supplies would be stockpiled in preparation for a no-deal Brexit and that the UK already had three months of “buffer” in more than 200 drugs and sufficient supplies of blood.

Kier Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, criticised Raab’s speech, commenting that it “provided no answers to how ministers intend to mitigate the serious consequences of leaving the EU without an agreement".

"A no deal Brexit has never been viable and would represent a complete failure of the government’s negotiating strategy," he said.

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