A post-Brexit reflection by Nicola Wilson Research Partnerships and Operations Manager, the NHSA

7th July 2016

Just about every email subject field I have received, every phone call or conversation that I have had since Friday 24th June 2016 has contained this plaintive question. Taking as read that between 2007 and 2013, the UK received £8.8 billion in research and innovation investment from the EU; universally, my colleagues across the Health and Life Sciences landscape are attempting to make sense of the unexpected, and to appraise how BREXIT will exactly impact.

Why are they asking me? For those of you who do not know me pre-NHSA; from 2012 until 2015 I was Senior EU Health Specialist to the North of England EU Health Partnership (NEEHP), a team of health professionals hosted by The Christie NHS Foundation Trust. The purpose of NEEHP was to ensure that health related organisations across the North of England maximised on access to EU funding instruments, knowledge exchange activity with the brightest minds across Europe and policy preparedness arising from the European Union. It was partly due to my experience and working knowledge of European health mechanisms and partly due to undertaking a discrete piece of work on behalf of the NHSA to co-ordinate applications from the four North Of England sub-regions in the 2nd Call for Reference Sites from the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing that the Chief Executive of the NHSA, Dr Hakim Yadi, invited me to assist him within the research partnerships and thematic collaborations pillar of the NHSA back in April this year. At that time, (shall we term it Pre-Brexit?) maintaining existing and building new relationships with our colleagues across mainland Europe was considered crucial to improving the health of our domestic population for all the reasons that I know you will be familiar with.

So, here are my thoughts, on the current state of play:

  • Nothing can happen or change in the very short term. Until Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is invoked, whereby a nation gives notice to withdraw from the European Union, we are still in the European Union. BREXIT did not take immediate effect on the morning of Friday 24th June.
  • With continuation in EU funded projects being subject to BREXIT negotiations, perhaps the fact that HM Government had no exact exit strategy worked up in readiness for this situation is a positive? It reflects the fact that a vote out was neither pre-empted nor planned for, and that therefore careful consideration will be given to ensuring that our exit strategy negotiates a way in which we can still participate as partners in EU activity.
  • A number of countries out with the EU are still granted access to participating in EU funded projects, albeit not as a Lead Partner (e.g. European Economic Area (EEA) countries Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway). I think that the wisest stance to take just now is to continue to develop and maintain our trans-European partnerships, collaborations and relationships, perhaps adopting the position of an eligible non-EU EEA nation.
  • Whilst all is uncertain, let us maintain a ‘business as usual attitude’ and let the necessary negotiations take place.

Nicki can be contacted at nicola.wilson@thenhsa.co.uk




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