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Geoscience and the EU Referendum

EU Referendum

Last year, the government published legislation that gave the British people a vote on the UK's EU membership. Voters were asked 'Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union'. The referendum took place on Thursday 23 June, 2016 and the electorate delivered a 'Leave' result with 51.9% of the vote. 

In the fortnight following the vote, the President of the Society, Malcolm Brown, sent a message to Fellows advising on how the outcome may affect the Society and geoscience activities in the UK.

The message can be found below. 


EU Referendum - Message to Fellows

Firstly, I would like to assure all Fellows that the result will in no way affect our international outlook, or the esteem in which our Society and Fellowship are held worldwide. Nor will it affect the international recognition of Chartered Geologist or Chartered Scientist status.

The Society will remain a full and active member of the European Federation of Geologists (EFG), the umbrella organisation for professional geoscience bodies across Europe, several of which are from non-EU countries. We will continue to work with the EFG on a wide range of matters relating to the profession, including mobility of the geoscience workforce across Europe and beyond, and to award the title of European Geologist (EurGeol) under licence from EFG as at present.

Depending on the nature of the UK’s future deal with the EU, the referendum result could present significant changes and challenges to the UK’s science community. Research funding, freedom of movement, the economy and environmental policy may all be affected. We are working with the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), other learned societies and similar organisations, and through our links in the devolved nations of the UK, to ensure the voices of geoscientists are heard during the negotiations and adjustments ahead.

We are still at a very early stage in the process of leaving the European Union. We will be monitoring developments and updating Fellows and others in the geoscience community via the resource page on our website: as matters become clearer. On 28 June Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, made a statement on higher education and research following the EU Referendum result, setting out initial assurances about EU nationals and student finance in England, EU student and staff status, the Erasmus exchange programme and Horizon 2020 research funding.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has announced an inquiry into the implications of leaving the EU for science and research. The Society will respond to this inquiry – if there are points you wish to suggest for inclusion in our response please email

With best wishes

Malcolm Brown
President, The Geological Society

We are still very early in the process of leaving the European Union. Government planning and negotiations with the EU will be taking place for at least the next two years. We will be monitoring developments and updating the members via this resource page. 

Brexit and Geoscience Policy

The policy team have been busy over the summer responding to a number of parliamentary inquiries relating to the EU Referendum which took place in June. Inquiry topics include science and research, climate change policy, energy policy and the future of the natural environment. Many of these responses included the comments and data that we collected as part of the EU survey that we conducted earlier this year. Our policy responses that relate to the UK leaving the EU are listed below:

You can find all of our responses on the policy area of the website. If you have any questions or comments regarding the above responses, please contact the policy team at

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills - Statement on higher education and research following the EU referendum

On the 28 June Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science, made a statement on Higher education and research following the EU Referendum result. The statement covers student finance for EU nationals in England, EU student and staff status, Erasmus and Horizon 2020 research funding. The key points made are:

  • EU students who are eligible under current rules to receive loans and grants from the Student Loans Company will continue to do so for courses they are currently enrolled on or about to start this coming year.
  • The Master’s Loans launched today are also still available to eligible EU students.
  • EU students will continue to receive funding for the duration of their courses. Information on the eligibility criteria, including residency rules, is available.
  • There will be no immediate changes in the circumstances of British citizens living in the EU, and European citizens living here.
  • There will be no immediate change to visa policies including for students, visitors, businesses and entrepreneurs who are already in the UK or wish to come here.
  • The referendum result does not affect students studying in the EU, beneficiaries of Erasmus+ or those considering applying in 2017. The UK’s future access to the Erasmus+ programme will be determined as a part of wider discussions with the EU.
  • The referendum result has no immediate effect on those applying to or participating in Horizon 2020.

You can find the statement on the Government website

EU Survey 

In May 2016 the Geological Society ran a survey to gauge what the impact of a 'Leave' vote would be on the the geoscience employment sector. The survey had over 1100 respondents from a broad range of employment sectors. Of the 863 people that answered the question:

'What impact will leaving the European Union have on your employment sector'?

62.5% said it would have a slightly negative or very negative impact on their sector of work.

You can read more about the results of the survey on the Society blog

Geological Society Responses On EU Membership and Freedom of Movement 

In preparation for the referendum, many science organisations examined evidence and prepared reports on how the results of the referendum would affect UK science and industry. The Society has put together and contributed to a number of responses on the areas of immigration, research funding and freedom of movement and how changes to these areas will impact on the geoscience and broader science community. You can find a list of our relevant work as well as some useful links and resources below. 

HoL Science and Technology Committee - Relationship between EU membership and UK science and engineering - Call for evidence

EU FlagThe House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has launched an inquiry into the 'Relationship between EU membership and UK science and engineering'. The committee is hearing evidence on this relationship ahead of the EU referendum scheduled for this parliament. You can find out more about the inquiry on the committee website.

The Geological Society made a written submission which can be found below.

GSL written submission to the Science and Technology Committee.


Migration Advisory Committee - Review of Tier 2

Migration Advisory Committee LogoIn July last year the Migration Advisory Committee launched a review into the Tier 2 route of immigration and visa policy. This is the route by which many researchers and skilled workers enter the country. Details of the review are available on the Government website.

Our submission was prepared in collaboration with University Geoscience UK, the Royal Astronomical Society and the British Geophysical Association and can be found below. 

GSL written submission to the Migration Advisory Committee


Campaign for Science and Engineering - Immigration and its impact on UK science survey

CaSE Logo Late last year the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), of which the Society is an organisational member, published a  report on the Role of EU membership in UK science and engineering research. The report is available on the CaSE website.

They also launched a survey on 'Immigration and its impact on UK science'. The survey was a call for evidence to contribute to a CaSE report that was published in early 2016. You can find out more about the survey on the CaSE website.

The Geological Society made a written submission which can be found below.

GSL written submission to CaSE.

Other Resources

Nature - Academics across Europe join 'Brexit' debate 

Times Higher Education - Science Minister Jo Johnson: Brexit would damage UK science

Conservative Home - Making the environmentalist case for remaining in the EU

Green Alliance - Seven things you should know about the EU and the environment

The London School of Economics and Political Science Blog - Debunking the myths about British science after an EU exit

The Carbon Brief - Interview with Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Lisa Nandy where she discusses impact of the EU referendum on energy and climate change policy. 

The Guardian - Why the EU out campaign should be worried about science

Wired - What would an EU exit mean for UK Science and Tech

Scientists for EU - A group campaigning for continued EU membership.