Life science research, innovation and training in the UK, and the work of life scientists, happen in an increasingly international context. The interactions of the UK scientific community with European neighbours, and the European Union (EU), are complex and include matters of research funding, regulation, translation, mobility, collaborations and scientific advice.
This page provides links to a selection of resources with information relevant to the European and EU context for UK life sciences. Click on the links below to go directly to:
News and recent updates
RSB speaks out against the dangers of a no-deal Brexit
The Royal Society of Biology and other sector leaders have said that they “collectively fear the destructive effects of a no-deal Brexit”, in a letter published 17 January 2019 by the Independent.
The letter, signed by a number of chief executives and directors from organisations and learned societies spanning science, engineering, law, healthcare, energy and business, states that a no deal exit would “adversely affect the UK economy” and urges politicians to “unite to avert a UK-wide crisis.”
RSB briefs MPs taking part in debate on Brexit, Science and Innovation
On 6 September 2018, a debate was held in the House of Commons on the subject of Brexit, Science and Innovation. Ahead of this, the RSB wrote to MPs to brief them on the fundamental needs that are of vital importance for the UK bioscience community to achieve our potential. Our briefing covered the need for and importance of:
- ongoing, active and clear communication from Government, through the Brexit process and beyond
- ready access to EU and global networks, funding and expertise
- simple, efficient and consistent operation in attracting highly skilled people to the UK, from all skill, qualification and professional levels
- support for necessary common standards and frameworks to enable collaboration and trade with the EU, with any divergence only considered following detailed community consultation
Several MPs thanked the RSB for providing this information and, during the debate, MPs Stephen Metcalfe and Chi Onwurah voiced the RSB's call for swift and clear communication from Government.
(29 March 2017)
(21 March 2017)
(28 February 2017)
Brexit: joint statement following a meeting of RSB and VBIO (14 October 2016)
Elsevier launches Brexit Resource Centre (28 September 2016)
House of Lords Brexit round-up (16 September 2016)
Leaving the EU: implications and opportunities for science and research inquiry by the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee. The Royal Society of Biology submitted evidence on (7 September 2016).
UK national academies publish joint statement on research and innovation after the EU Referendum (19 July 2016)
House of Commons Library briefing 'Brexit: what happens next?' (30 June 2016)
Sir Venki Ramakrishnan Parliamentary Links Day Speech (28 June 2016)
UK science must be protected in wake of EU Referendum (24 June 2016)
Today's Referendum outcome will result in the UK leaving the European Union. There will now be a period of uncertainty in many areas of UK policy, including bioscience research and practice, and its funding, until new decisions are made or existing arrangements confirmed.
The Royal Society of Biology (RSB) has contributed to a number of recent government consultations and parliamentary inquiries exploring the impact of the EU on UK science, the regulation of the life sciences, and GM foods. The reports from these inquiries, alongside evidence provided by a number of other organisations, are available in the following sections.
The Royal Society of Biology responded to Professor Adrian Smith’s call for evidence
on future frameworks for international collaboration on research and innovation.
31 May 2019
The Royal Society of Biology has responded to the call for evidence on controlling live exports for slaughter and to improve animal welfare during transport after the UK leaves the EU issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
22 May 2018
The Royal Society of Biology has submitted a response to the 'Health and Harmony' consultation on the future for food, farming and the environment in a green Brexit issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
8 May 2018
The Royal Society of Biology responded to the Migration Advisory Committee call for evidence on EEA- workers in the UK labour market.
27 October 2017
The Royal Society of Biology responded to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy consultation on Building our Industrial Strategy.
13 April 2017
The Royal Society of Biology responded to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy consultation on the UK Bioeconomy.
27 January 2017
The Royal Society of Biology responded to the consultation on the draft Animal Welfare (Sentencing and Recognition of Sentience) Bill by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
7 February 2018
The Royal Society of Biology responded to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry on Brexit, Science and Innovation: Preparations for 'No-Deal'.
23 January 2019
The Royal Society of Biology has provided evidence to the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee of the House of Lords, in response to its inquiry on Brexit: plant and animal biosecurity
24 April 2018
The Royal Society of Biology responded to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into the Government’s 25-Year Plan for the Environment.
26 February 2018
The Royal Society of Biology responded to the Science and Technology Committee of the Commons Brexit Science and innovation Summit inquiry.
12 February 2018
The Royal Society of Biology responded to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee inquiry into Life Sciences and the Industrial Strategy.
23 October 2017
The Royal Society of Biology responded to the Education Select Committee inquiry on the impact of exiting the European Union on higher education.
30 November 2016
The Royal Society of Biology responded to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee inquiry into 'Leaving the EU: implications and opportunities for science and research'
7 September 2016
Relationship between EU membership and the effectiveness of UK science by the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee. The report was published on 20th April 2016 and the RSB submitted evidence to this inquiry.
GM foods and application of the precautionary principle in Europe by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. The RSB submitted evidence to this inquiry and provided a witness for hearings.
Reports and briefings
Information on aspects of the UK membership to the EU relevant to the life sciences is available within a variety of publications.
This list will be updated as new material becomes available.
The EU referendum
The RSB produced a briefing on the references to science in the report
UK science and the EU
The Royal Society
The Royal Society
UK research and the European Union - The role of the EU regulation and policy in governing UK research
The Royal Society
Campaign for Science and Engineering and their report
Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM)
Institute for European Environmental Policy
The potential policy and environmental consequences for the UK of a departure from the European Union
Institute for European Environmental Policy
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
British Pharmacological Society
Position statements on the EU referendum
British Toxicology Society
Marine Biological Association
Government balance of competences reviews
In July 2012 a review of the balance of competences between the EU and the UK was launched by the UK Government, to audit what the EU does and how it affects the UK. A total of 32 reports were produced covering specific areas of EU competence.
A selection of those broadly relevant to the life sciences community:
- Animal Health and Welfare and Food Safety
- Environment and Climate Change
- Research and Development
- Single Market: Free Movement of Persons
- Education, vocational training and youth
The House of Lords EU Select Committee held an inquiry into the review in 2015.
The RSB hosts a multi author blog covering a wide array of topics and issues including discovery science, professional practice and training, and policy. Articles reflect the understanding and views of the author and not necessarily of the RSB.
Two recent postings are relevant to the issues covered on this page:
Biosciences and Brexit - by Deborah Roebuck, PhD student at Imperial College London and BBSRC Science Policy Fellow at the Royal Society of Biology during 2015.
The "EU effect" on our environment - by Matt Turley, PhD student at the University of Brighton and NERC Science Policy Fellow at the Royal Society of Biology during 2016.
Updated December 2019