Skip to main content

Brexit: withdrawal, implementation and beyond

On 29 March 2017, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which gave the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) two years to agree to the terms of UK’s exit from the EU, or Brexit. On Friday 29 March 2019, the UK will leave the EU. Article 50 gave three requirements for an orderly exit from the EU:


Requirement 1: Official notification of withdrawal – completed March 2017

Requirement 2: Withdrawal Agreement 

Since triggering Article 50, the UK and the EU have been negotiating the terms of a draft Withdrawal Agreement – or deal as it has been referred to in the press. The 585-page Agreement was published on 14 November 2018. Key points of the agreement are:

  • The Backstop: The UK and the EU want to avoid a ‘hard border’ between Ireland and Northern Ireland (NI). Both sides have agreed on an insurance policy or a ‘backstop’ if the future trading relationship can’t be agreed on before the end of the implementation period. If the backstop is used, NI would stay in the EU customs union and would also be part of the new UK-wide customs relationship with the rest of the EU. If this came into force, then the UK would sign up to several areas of EU law such as environment protection and state aid. The UK would not be able to leave the backstop without consent from the EU.
  • Residency rights: All EU citizens (and families) residing in the UK, and UK citizens (and families) residing in the EU will retain their residency and social security rights following Brexit. UK/EU citizens who take up residency in the UK or EU during the implementation period will also retain their residency and social security rights following Brexit. Anyone who stays in the same EU country for 5 years will be able to apply for permanent residency.
  • Divorce bill: The UK will pay around £39bn to the EU to cover its financial obligation. Part of this includes the UK’s yearly contribution to the EU budget. In return, the UK will benefit from EU funding programmes up until 2020.
  • An implementation period: Following acceptance of the Withdrawal Agreement, the transition period, or implementation period, will run from 29 March 2019 to 31 December 2020. During this time the UK will maintain the status quo of EU membership. Both the EU and UK can extend the implementation period once; however this must be agreed by 1 July 2020.

The Withdrawal Agreement has now gained approval from the UK PM’s cabinet and the EU Council. In order to be made into UK law, it must receive majority parliamentary approval from House of Commons. A parliamentary vote on the Withdrawal Agreement is to be held before the end of this year.

What will happen if Parliament accept or reject the Withdrawal Agreement?


Requirement 3: Implementation Period

If the deal is approved by both the EU and the UK parliament, the future framework will be negotiated during the ‘transition’ or ‘implementation’ period. Negotiations will begin after 29 March 2019 – Brexit day. This will cover intricate amendments and agreements on a range of issues such as trade, finance, services, immigration and foreign policy and is when the real nuts and bolts of the UK’s future relationship with the EU will be worked out. The implementation period is set to run until 31 December 2020, although an extension can be given once if requested by 1 July 2020.

So what does this mean for science and research?

  • The Withdrawal Agreement focusses solely on the key terms of UK withdrawal from EU as outlined above.
  • The implementation period is when legislation – i.e. trade, funding, immigration - relating to science and research will be worked out.
  • UK researchers will still be able to apply and receive EU funding up until the end 2020. This has been guaranteed by the UK government. 
  • EU researchers granted residency in the UK and vice versa will retain their residency after Brexit. Those that gain residency during the transition period will also retain their residency after Brexit. This will be written into law during the implementation period. 

A timeline for Brexit: what will happen and when? 


Brexit negotiations are ongoing: there's still time to make your concerns heard! Take a look at our policy briefing to see the BSI's key priorities for immunology following Brexit. If you want to engage with your MP on issues surrounding Brexit, why not use our free toolkit or email template

If you have any questions or concerns regarding immunology and Brexit, please contact Head of External Affairs Jennie Evans