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Issued by the Communications Team, NIHR Central Commissioning Facility


Dear Colleagues,

As you will have seen, the UK Government has now agreed an extension to Article 50. If the Withdrawal Agreement is approved by the House of Commons this week, the exit date will be confirmed for 11pm on 22 May (UK time). If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by the House of Commons, the legal default in UK and EU law is that the UK will leave the EU on 12 April 2019 without a deal.

Therefore, as a responsible government we must now plan for a no deal scenario on 12 April.

The Department of Health and Social Care will continue to work on its no deal plans and we are writing in similar terms to all other organisations in the health and care system to ask them to continue their plans.

In light of this, we would like to draw your attention to the following:

Personal Data Flows: The NHS England guidance sets out actions that need to be taken in order to ensure continuity of access to, processing and sharing of personal data as part of the Government’s contingency preparations for a ‘No Deal’ EU Exit. It is important for all organisations, as a priority, to review whether they would be affected by assessing their data flows. For those that would be affected, early action is strongly advised as changes may take some time to implement.

Inbound personal data flows from the EEA may be affected. We recommend that you identify inbound personal data flows, which are data transfers from any EEA organisation to your organisation. We would recommend that you contact these EEA organisations to discuss and put in place the relevant appropriate safeguards. Please note that these safeguards can be implemented now.

Relevant guidance relating to transferring research data between countries in the event of a ‘No Deal’ EU Exit is available via the Health Research Authority (HRA) website here. The HRA’s page will be updated with any new relevant guidance issued. NHS England and NHS Improvement have established local, regional and national teams to enable rapid support with queries on data transfers in the event of ‘No Deal’ EU Exit; contact details can be found in the NHS England Guidance.

EU Research and Innovation funding schemes: The UK Government is committed to ensuring that UK and EU researchers, universities and businesses will be able to continue to collaborate after EU exit.

The Government will guarantee funding for competitively bid for EU projects submitted before we leave the EU, including Horizon 2020 projects. This guarantee will cover all successful bids submitted by UK participants before the UK exits the EU, for the full duration of the projects. This guarantee was extended in July 2018 and now additionally covers funding for successful bids where UK organisations are able to participate as a third country in competitive EU grant programmes. This extension runs from exit day until the end of 2020. Key contacts for EU programmes can be found here.

Under Horizon 2020 participation rules, the UK would not be eligible to bid for some calls after Exit in a no deal scenario, including the European Research Council (ERC), some Marie Sklodowska - Curie Actions (MSCA) and the Small and Medium-sized Enterprise instrument (SMEi).

In the longer term, the UK would like to explore the option of association to the excellence-based European science and innovation programmes, including the successor to Horizon 2020 (Horizon Europe) as part of continuing relationship with the EU on science and innovation.

Continuity of clinical trials and clinical investigations supplies: Please see attached communication distributed this week to sponsors of clinical trials and clinical investigations, providing information and guidance in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. Relevant contact information can be found in the attached document.

Workforce: We understand that people working in and contributing to NIHR who are from EU and EEA countries may be concerned about the implications of a ‘No Deal’ EU Exit, we would like to offer full reassurance that their work and contribution to NIHR is hugely valued, that we are committed to retaining these staff into the future.

The Government has been clear that after the UK leaves the EU, whilst freedom of movement will cease to apply, we must retain health, social care and research professionals from EEA countries, and continue to attract international talent.

Legislation is still being introduced, however arrangements in the event of a ‘No Deal’ EU Exit include:

  • measures set out in the Immigration White Paper whereby EEA citizens will be able to come to the UK for visits, work or study; apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain for stays over three months; with stays over three years being under the new skills-based immigration system which begins from 2021;
  • EU Settlement Scheme, for which fees are now waived;
  • the Chancellor’s announcement in his spring statement that scientists and researchers in PhD-level occupations will be exempt from salary related visa caps, and their overseas research activity will also count as residence in the UK for the purpose of applying for settlement.

We are monitoring the situation across the NIHR, to be able to take mitigating action in the event of any related staff shortages or other issues which may emerge, and so we can be sure that staff continue to know that they are welcome in the longer-term. If you do become aware of any such workforce issues, in the first instance please contact our EU Exit workforce lead in the Science, Research and Evidence Directorate:

We will update you when we have further information available.

In the meantime, please cascade this email to your staff and colleagues, key stakeholders and any other interested parties.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Whitty  Louise Wood

Chief Scientific Adviser  Director – Science, Research and Evidence

DHCS Clinical Trials Communication