Five UK scientific investments threatened by Brexit

From satellites to drugs, article 50 will be a spanner in the works of many costly projects


The EU’s £9bn rival to the GPS satellite navigation system developed by the US. It was commissioned in 2003 and is due for completion in 2020. The European commission has decided to block the UK from working on the system as post-EU it will be considered a “third country”. T he UK is threatening to demand a £900m refund of contributions to the project.

An image of Washington DC captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite, 2015.
An image of Washington DC captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite, 2015. Photograph: Sentinel-2/ESA


The European Space Agency’s programme has launched six Earth observation satellites so far and UK companies have built hardware and instrumentation for the craft. The programme is 70% funded by the EU, so the status of these manufacturing contracts has yet to be determined.

Mock nuclear waste barrels.


The European atomic energy community (Euratom) is the EU’s nuclear safety and research watchdog – for instance, they regulate the transport of nuclear fuels and isotopes used in cancer treatments. Last year, Theresa May notified the EU of the UK’s intention to leave as part of the article 50 process. Even Vote Leave’s director, Dominic Cummings, has questioned this decision.

Laboratory microscope

Framework Nine

This is the successor to the EU’s Horizon 2020 science funding programme. The UK is currently a net recipient of funding from 2020, and it’s unlikely that the EU will allow that continue. Post-Brexit, an associate membership similar to Norway or Israel’s could be negotiated, but contributions are likely to increase.

Pills spilling from a bottle

European Medicines Agency

While Nice makes judgments on a drug’s cost-effectiveness for the NHS, the EMA rules on safety and efficacy, and authorises them for sale. The body is based in London, but Amsterdam has won the search for a new location after Brexit. At present it is unclear how drugs will be regulated in the UK.


Ian Tucker

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Five planned missions to Mars
Space agencies around the world are set to explore the red planet, while Elon Musk has even grander plans

Tasha Kleeman

02, Dec, 2018 @7:00 AM

Article image
Beam me down: can solar power from space help solve our energy needs?
The latest developments in solar tech offer potential solutions to the energy security crisis – including satellites that would convert sunlight into power for Earth

Stuart Clark

09, Oct, 2022 @11:00 AM

Article image
Will Trump go to Mars? Nasa’s nervous wait
The president-elect’s priorities for the US space agency are of crucial importance for Earth as well as for future space exploration

Stuart Clark

04, Dec, 2016 @1:00 PM

Article image
The greatest threat to life on Earth may come from space
Asteroids and space debris could wreak untold devastation on the planet

Stuart Clark

31, Aug, 2019 @2:00 PM

Article image
The five: large telescopes
As the most detailed images of the sun are released this week, we look at other huge telescopes and their discoveries

Anna Cooper

02, Feb, 2020 @5:30 AM

Article image
The five: Nasa research probes
As Saturn’s moon Titan becomes Nasa’s latest destination, we look at other probes the agency is boldly sending forth

Lydia Waller

07, Jul, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
The five: space missions for 2021
After 2020, anyone would be forgiven for wanting to escape Earth, and Mars, the moon and the asteroid belt beckon

Ian Tucker

10, Jan, 2021 @5:30 AM

Article image
Five next-gen space rovers
The cream of the new breed of craft heading for the moon and beyond

Imogen Bagnall

24, Feb, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
Five scientific predictions by Professor Stephen Hawking
From catastrophic climate change to alien invasion, the theoretical physicist’s thoughts about what might lie ahead were often far from optimistic

Ian Tucker

21, Oct, 2018 @6:00 AM

Article image
Five developments in space, time and fusion
Projects from gravitational wave detection to viewing the Milky Way and generating thermonuclear power march ahead

Ian Tucker

20, Jan, 2019 @7:00 AM