There is an urgent need to protect and enhance our domestic and international research after Brexit.
Under the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme, UK research received £3.5 billion and was a crucial part of hundreds of international research projects. It is important that the Government provides clarity on the future of funding when Horizon 2020 comes to an end and that we maintain funding for UK research.
The Government states that it is open to associate to Horizon Europe, “if a fair and balanced deal can be agreed”. It says it will make a final decision on this when it is clear whether such terms can be reached. At the same time, it says it is developing alternative schemes to support international research and innovation collaboration. It says that if the UK does not formally associate to Horizon Europe, it will implement alternatives as quickly as possible from January 2021 and address the funding gap.
I am concerned at the possible damage that the Government’s approach to negotiations with the EU could have on the likelihood of our being welcomed into the Horizon Europe and the opportunities available through it. The UK’s research base and international reputation in this area must not become a victim to the Government’s approach to relations with the EU.
More widely, with just days to reach an agreement with the EU on the future relationship, it was extremely worrying that the country was still waiting for the comprehensive, ‘oven-ready’ trade and security deal that was promised to the British people at the General Election a year ago.
The Prime Minister has said that to leave with no deal would be a “failure of statecraft”. The Government therefore needs to take responsibility for the outcome of negotiations and both sides must get on with reaching an agreement so we can focus on securing the economy and rebuilding our country from the coronavirus pandemic.