There are further topics on which the EU and the UK agreed that it was in their mutual interest to continue a close cooperation in the future, notably: health security, cybersecurity and information security.

 Health Security

International cooperation is crucial to protect the health of populations across borders, as evidenced most recently by the ongoing Coronavirus health crisis.

EU Member States have organised their cooperation on health security through a number of structures, including the Early Warning and Response System, the Health Security Committee and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

  • The Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) of the European Union is a platform with restricted access for monitoring public health threats in the EU. Access to and posting in the platform are confidential and reserved to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the EU Member States and the European Commission.
  • The EU Health Security Committee is a dedicated forum on health security including EU Member States and the European Commission. The Committee reinforces coordination and sharing of best practices and information on national preparedness activities, and provides a platform for consultation amongst Member States to coordinate national responses to serious cross-border threats to health.
  • The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is an independent agency of the EU, which mission is to strengthen Europe’s responses to infectious diseases.

These structures are usually accessible only to EU institutions and Members States.

 Does this mean there will be no cooperation on health security between the EU and the UK as of 1 January 2021?

Taking geographic proximity into consideration, the EU and the UK agreed on dedicated provisions for cooperation in the field of health security, referring in particular to the possibility for the UK to be invited to participate on a temporary basis in a set of EU structures.

  • The EU and the UK agreed on the possible participation of the UK in the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) and in the EU Health Security Committee, whenever a joint health threat makes it necessary or advisable.

The decision on UK participation will be taken unilaterally by the EU on a case-by-case basis and will always remain limited in time and scope.

The Agreement provides that the UK shall abide, for the time of its participation in these structures, by the rules and regulations governing the EWRS and the EU Health Security Committee. These are the same obligations that also apply to EU Member States.

  • The EU and the UK have agreed that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the relevant UK body responsible for surveillance, epidemic intelligence and scientific advice on infectious diseases, shall cooperate on issues of mutual interest and may conclude to this end a Memorandum of Understanding.

Do similar exceptions exist for other third countries in the EU’s direct neighbourhood, like Switzerland or Norway?

The regime applicable to the UK for cooperation with the EU in the field of health security reflects the conditions applied to other third countries the EU cooperates with in this policy area.


Cybersecurity threats are often cross-border in nature, and are estimated to cost the global economy €400 billion every year. These attacks can affect our security, prosperity and democratic order.

Faced with increasing cybersecurity challenges, EU Member States cooperate at multiple levels to ensure the highest possible protection for its citizens. This cooperation can be extended to third countries.

How will the EU cooperate with the UK in the future?

The Agreement sets out a number of initiatives between the EU and the UK including a regular dialogue on cybersecurity, and cooperative actions at international level to strengthen global and third countries’ cyber-resilience.

The EU and the UK have also agreed to exchange best practices and actions aimed at promoting and protecting an open, free, and secure cyberspace.

Subject to an invitation by the relevant EU authorities, these actions include the possibility for the UK, to:

  • cooperate with the EU Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-EU) to exchange information on cyber-related tools and methods;
  • participate in activities conducted by the Cooperation Group established by Directive (EU) 2016/1148, related to capacity building, security-related exercises, risk and incident-related best practices, awareness raising, education and training, and research and development;
  • participate in certain activities of the EU Cybersecurity Agency (ENISA) related to capacity building, knowledge and information, and awareness-raising and education.

Separate Agreement: Security of Information

The exchange of classified information between partners remains an important tool of cooperation in addressing common security threats.

If a joint security threat makes it necessary, certain EU classified information can be shared with third countries, but only on a case-by-case basis and provided that a dedicated Security of Information Agreement (SIA) has been concluded between the EU and a third country.

Against this background, the EU and the UK have concluded a Security of Information Agreement. The Agreement will allow the EU and the UK to exchange classified information, applying strong guarantees as to the handling and protection of the exchanged information.

Why did you conclude a separate agreement on information security, why not include the provisions in the EU-UK Agreement?

This is one of the standard “security agreements” concluded by the EU with third countries. These agreements provide the necessary guarantees for the protection of the exchange of EU classified information (EUCI) released to third parties. They constitute the basis for exchanging EUCI and indicate the maximum and minimum level of EUCI which may be exchanged.

How will disputes be managed and what remedies are foreseen in case of non-compliance?

Security of Information Agreements provide a legal framework, which includes also dispute resolution provisions based on consultations between the Parties.

What about irregular migration, why was it not discussed?

During the negotiations of the Agreement and in line with the Political Declaration, the Commission has proposed to the UK to establish a regular dialogue to cooperate in addressing irregular migration.

The UK did not engage on this EU proposal and expressed instead interest in concluding with the EU agreements on the readmission of illegally entering or residing persons, and the transfer of unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. However, neither of these two topics was covered by the EU mandate.

In the context of the Agreement, the Parties have agreed a Joint Declaration on these matter, noting that the UK may wish to approach some Member States bilaterally on these matters.


EU Member States, based on their very close partnership and their common values and goals, use parts of the EU budget to fund joint programmes in many areas.

Some areas such as regional development and cohesion, environmental protection, agricultural support, civil protection or defence capabilities benefit from particularly close cooperation.

What are the consequences of leaving the EU?

As a third country, the UK does not have the right to participate in any EU programmes as these are reserved for EU Member States only.

However, when it is in the interest of the EU, non-EU countries can get the possibility to participate under clearly defined conditions. Detailed provisions for such participation are laid out in the basic EU acts establishing each programme, as well as in the relevant rules of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027.

Were the conditions of the UK’s continued participation in Union programmes based on the pre-existing legal framework, or are they tailor-made for the UK?

The EU and the UK based themselves on the existing legal framework for the participation of third countries in Union programmes, when they agreed on the overarching principles and conditions for the UK to participate: a fair and appropriate financial contribution, provisions for sound financial management, fair treatment of participants, and appropriate consultation mechanisms.


How will the financial contribution be calculated?

The fair and appropriate financial contribution will be ensured with:

  • A contribution based on the wealth of the UK in comparison with the wealth of the EU. The contribution of the UK shall be proportional to its GDP.
  • A participation fee, covering the administrative costs of organising the system of Union programmes. The participation fee, being a new type of contribution, will be phased-in progressively.
  • In addition, for Horizon Europe, a standard adjustment mechanism ensuring a balance between UK contributions and the benefits for its entities, through specific corrective measures.

The EU and the UK agreed to cooperate to ensure the sound financial management of the funds used for the implementation of the programmes, including the UK contributions. Sound financial management addresses issues such as auditing the implementation of the programme or fighting against fraud.


Is there a fixed duration for participation in a Union programme?

Given the long-term planning needed for the implementation of the programmes, and the stability needed to ensure their success, the parties also agreed that the UK would have to commit to the full period for each of the programmes in which it participates during the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027.


Which Union programmes will the UK participate in also in the future?

At the beginning of the negotiations, the UK asked to continue its participation in five EU programmes. The programmes in question were:  Horizon Europe, the Euratom Research and Training programme, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), Copernicus, and Erasmus.

It also requested access to the services of the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS) and the EU’s Satellite Surveillance & Tracking (SST).

The parties were able to agree the UK’s continued participation in the following EU programmes:


  • Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe is the European Union’s seven-year (2021-2027) research and innovation programme. With a proposed programme budget of around €100 billion, Horizon Europe will support EU Member States and associated third countries in unlocking their national research and innovation potential in funding frontier research projects, fellowships and the mobility of researchers. Horizon Europe sets ambitious, EU-wide goals to tackle some of today’s biggest problems, such as health crises or the fight against climate change, as it reinforces technological and industrial capacities across the EU.


  • Euratom Research and Training programme

Complementary to Horizon Europe, the Euratom Research and Training programme covers research and training activities to continually improve nuclear safety, security, radioactive waste management and radiation protection. The Programme furthermore carries out research in the medical uses of radiation, for the benefit of all European citizens.


  • International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER)

The fusion test facility ITER is currently under construction in the South of France, and will, once completed, aim to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy based on the same principle that powers the sun and stars. The project was so far funded and run by seven member entities (EU, India, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea and the United States), the EU being the host party and main contributor (45%). The UK will participate in the programme through its association with Euratom.


  • Copernicus

Copernicus is the EU’s satellite system for monitoring the Earth. It consists of a complex set of systems which collect data from multiple sources: Earth observation satellites and in situ sensors such as ground stations, airborne sensors, and sea-borne sensors. It processes this data and provides users with reliable and up-to-date information through a set of services related to environmental and security issues.


The EU and the UK also agreed that the UK would have continued access to the services provided by:


  • EU Satellite Surveillance & Tracking (SST)

With this branch of its Space programme, the EU is able to detect, catalogue and predict the movements of space objects orbiting the Earth to mitigate the risk of collisions.


Does this mean that the UK will discontinue its participation in PEACE+?

The EU and the UK have jointly committed to continue the implementation of PEACE+, the EU’s cross-border programme that will continue contributing to a more prosperous and stable society in Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland (comprising counties Cavan, Donegal Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan and Sligo).

Being a programme managed under shared management, a system where Member States and associated countries actively manage the programme together with the Commission, PEACE+ is not covered by the Agreement.

However, during all the negotiations, the UK, Ireland and the EU have confirmed a strong political commitment to implement the PEACE+ programme. Discussions have already started at technical level on the modalities of its implementation.


Why won’t the UK continue to participate in Erasmus?

By leaving the EU, the UK effectively terminated the possibility for EU and UK students to benefit from the Erasmus exchange programme.

The Erasmus programme is open to the participation of third countries under the conditions set out in the basic act establishing the programme. Among these, third countries that become associated to Erasmus have to participate in the programme in full, to ensure the synergies between the different areas in the programme.

The UK requested partial participation in the programme, which is not foreseen in the basic act establishing Erasmus. The UK subsequently decided that it did not want to participate in Erasmus.

This will mean that UK participants will lose the chance to benefit from the programme: during the period 2014-2020, over 7 300 UK organisations were involved in the programme. The programme benefitted more than 197 000 UK participants, of which more than 100 000 UK students went abroad in the framework of the programme.


Why didn’t you agree on continued access to the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS)?

The UK was interested in a service level agreement to access the EGNOS services, but this is not possible under the basic act of the programme: for EGNOS, only full participation is foreseen by the draft Space Programme regulation, and the UK was not interested in this option.

In the past, EGNOS enabled safer aircraft landing in 16 British airports.


Why has the Protocol establishing the association of the UK to the EU programmes not been finalised?

The Protocol can only be finalised when the basic acts establishing the relevant programmes have been adopted, to ensure that it is aligned with those legal instruments. When those basic acts are adopted, the Specialised Committee on Participation in Union Programmes, made up of representatives of the EU and UK, will discuss and adopt the Protocol. A Joint Declaration attached to the Agreement indicates the expected content of the Protocol.


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