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A post-Brexit agreement for research and innovation – outcomes from a simulated negotiation process

Wellcome worked with the economic think-tank Bruegel to simulate the negotiation of a post-Brexit UK-EU science agreement. This report documents that process and what we learned from doing it.

Key findings

  • A post-Brexit EU-UK science deal is possible and would be a 'win-win' for both parties.
  • Full UK association to Horizon Europe, with as few restrictions on access as possible, must be at the heart of any EU-UK science deal.
  • Negotiating a science deal will involve finding compromise, and time is extremely short. If the UK has any chance of being part of Horizon Europe on day one, negotiations must start immediately.
  • The teams found it easy to agree broad principles but found it harder to translate this into specific text and commitments. Existing precedents from Horizon 2020 agreements and elsewhere in the Brexit negotiations provided inspiration for our final agreement. 


  • Although formal negotiations to join Horizon Europe cannot start until the legislation is finalised, the UK government can start informal negotiations over aspects of the UK’s participation. The UK must start talks with the Commission immediately so that the formal negotiation process is as smooth as possible.
  • The UK government must put full participation in Horizon Europe at the core of its science ambition. Any new UK funding must be in addition to, not as replacement for, Horizon Europe. 
  • With Horizon Europe due to start in January 2021, there is no room for extensions and delay. A standalone science deal, that can be implemented separately to the future EU-UK FTA, offers the best chance of UK participation in Horizon Europe from day one. 
"This project has shown a deal is possible but also how much work is needed to make it happen. Time is running out. Missing the start of Horizon Europe would damage science on both sides of the Channel and put current and future collaboration at serious risk."
Beth Thompson, Head of Policy and Advocacy (UK & EU)
  • Report 1 February 2018 Updated 11 August 2020

    Building a strong future for European science: Brexit and beyond

    [Summary] Wellcome’s recommendations on what should be included in a new EU-UK research partnership and how it could be delivered. It is based on the views of European and UK experts.

  • Document Updated 6 January 2020

    Briefing on why the UK should associate to Horizon Europe

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