Theresa May has signalled that the UK will “welcome agreement” on continuing research collaboration with Europe and will “manage properly” future student flows from the European Union.
The prime minister’s speech today on the UK’s plans for future relations with the EU may be seen by universities as a signal that the government will seek to remain within the union’s research programmes.
But there will be questions on whether the EU would allow the UK to remain in Horizon 2020 and future research programmes as an associated country, if the nation refuses to accept free movement of people. Ms May again made clear that the UK would take “control” of immigration from the EU.
Pledging to control immigration to Britain from Europe as another of her goals, Ms May added: “We will continue to attract the brightest and the best to work or study in Britain – indeed openness to international talent must remain one of this country’s most distinctive assets – but that process must be managed properly so that our immigration system serves the national interest.
“So we will get control of the number of people coming to Britain from the EU.”
One of Ms May’s 12 points in her plan for Britain’s future covered science and research.
“A global Britain must also be a country that looks to the future,” she said. “That means being one of the best places in the world for science and innovation.
“One of our great strengths as a nation is the breadth and depth of our academic and scientific communities, backed up by some of the world’s best universities. And we have a proud history of leading and supporting cutting-edge research and innovation.
“So we will also welcome agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research, and technology initiatives.”
The EU has made Switzerland’s associated country membership of Horizon 2020 conditional on its continuing to accept free movement – with some suggesting this may set a precedent in negotiations with the UK.