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The legislative impact of Brexit on scientific research in the UK

Science in the UK is heavily dependent on EU collaborative frameworks, research frameworks and funding but that would change radically in the event of Britain leaving the EU and repealing the European Communities Act 1972, as the following Regulations would then cease to apply to the UK.

The following Regulations creating, implementing or concerning EU Funding programmes would cease to apply to the UK

•    Regulation creating the Horizon 2020 Programme
•    Regulation creating the Erasmus + Programme
•    Regulation creating the Creative Europe Programme
•    Regulation creating the Copernicus programme
•    Regulation creating the Health programme
•    Programme for the Environment and Climate Action (LIFE)
•    Regulation creating/implementing the Marco Polo programme
•    Regulation on the Research and Training Programme
•    Regulation on Climate change research and funding
•    Regulations concerning the European Earth Monitoring Programme(GMES)
•    Partnership instrument for cooperation with third countries
•    Regulations on the International Science and Technology Centre

The following research related Regulations would also be repealed


•    Regulations relating to the Interoperability of spatial data sets
•    Regulation on the Clinical trials framework for medicinal products for human use
•    Regulation on advanced therapy medicinal products
•    Procedures for the authorisation and supervision of medicinal products for human and vetinary use
•    REACH
•    Regulation on Test methods pursuant to REACH
•    Regulation on the export and import of hazardous chemicals
•    Regulation on the coordination of agricultural research
•    Regulation on the protection against trade in wild flora and fauna
•    Regulation on the Community reference laboratories for crustacean diseases, rabies and TB
•    Regulation on the Community reference laboratories for  genitically modified organisms - GMOs
•    Regulation on Medicinal products for paediatric use
•    Regulation on orphan medical products

The reason that these EU Regulations would cease to apply to the UK relates to the effect of the European Communities Act 1972. Normally, in the UK, a law doesn't take effect iuntil it has been passed by the UK Parliament as a law. However, EU Regulations don't work that way - they apply to the UK once they have been passed into law at EU level. The European Communities Act 1972 gives effect to the notion that EU law has supremacy over national law, and would be repealed if the UK became a sovereign nation outside the EU.

According to the UK Parliament

Section 2(1) [of the European Communities Act] means that provisions of EU law that are directly applicable or have direct effect, such as EU Regulations or certain articles of the EU Treaties, are automatically "without further enactment" incorporated and binding in national law without the need for a further Act of Parliament... So, when an EU Regulation enters into force, it automatically becomes part of national law, as it does in the other 26 Member States on the same day. The uniqueness of section 2(1) is that it gives effect to directly applicable or effective EU law without the need each time for implementing legislation, as would usually be required for the incorporation of other obligations assumed under international law by a dualist State” . (Report on the EU Bill and Parliamentary Sovereignty)

The flip side of that is that once the European Communities Act is repealed then all the EU Regulations are repealed as well, including all of the Regulations that directly benefit the science community, such as those listed above.  The effect of Britain pulling out of the EU altogether would appear at first glance to have significant implications for the scientific community, but it will be for scientists to quantify the extent to which the repeal of the above regulations would negatively affect scientific research in the UK.

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