British group to fight EU red tape

November 7, 2003

Key UK research organisations have joined forces to fight what they regard as damaging European science policy and red tape, writes Anna Fazackerley.

The first meeting of the European Liaison Group, which was established by the Biosciences Federation, was held last week.

Heavy-hitting members include the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council, the Academy of Medical Science, the Association of Medical Research Charities, Cancer Research UK and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.

Nancy Rothwell, a member of the Biosciences Federation executive committee who is leading this group, told The THES : "We are concerned that actions taken in the European Union are having an impact on what we are doing and that we are ill-informed and informed late.

"There's a feeling that in the UK we play little role in the negotiation, but when it's implemented we adhere to it to the letter. There's a feeling that some partner countries don't enforce EU law in quite the same way."

The group will aim to capitalise on its European contacts to share early intelligence about changes that are likely to be dictated by the European Commission and its parliament.

The members plan to work together to make their views on the key issues heard by the UK government, which will ultimately be responsible for lobbying in Europe.

Issues that are looming on the European horizon include a revision of rules on the use of animals in scientific procedures and rigorous legislation on the testing of chemicals.

The research community is currently dealing with the implications of the extremely unpopular EU clinical trials directive, which is due to come into force next year.

The Academy of Medical Sciences said this was a key example of where British science was going wrong in its handling of European issues.

Mary Manning, the executive director of the academy, said there were attempts as far back as two years ago to raise awareness of the sort of impact Europe's plans might have on the UK.

"But somehow in the end we got a directive that would be difficult to implement in this country," she said.

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