UK ‘likely’ to miss start of EU’s Horizon Europe, says Wellcome

EU and UK should negotiate ‘standalone’ research deal outside wider talks to avoid damaging science with break, Wellcome Trust recommends

January 28, 2020

The UK missing out on the start of the European Union’s next research programme because of delays in the Brexit process is “the most likely outcome” at present, a break that “would damage research and innovation”, according to a Wellcome Trust report.

The medical research funder and science policy organisation, which conducted a simulation of negotiations alongside Brussels-based thinktank Bruegel, calls for “unprecedented steps” to avoid that outcome. It recommends that a “standalone agreement” on research and innovation, including association to Horizon Europe, be negotiated separately to the wider talks on the EU-UK future relationship

“A discontinuity in EU-UK cooperation though the framework programmes [the EU’s research programmes] would damage research and innovation on both sides of the Channel,” says the report, titled A Post-Brexit Agreement for Research and Innovation: Outcomes from a Simulated EU-UK Negotiation.

The report was aimed at testing the assumption of “many in the research community that agreeing the terms of a science deal is likely to be relatively straightforward, since the interests of the UK and EU are well-aligned in this area”.

The UK is likely to be required to pay the EU a fee of more than €7 billion (£6 billion) over the seven-year span of Horizon Europe to join as an associated country.

Over three meetings, Wellcome and Bruegel brought together researchers and “individuals with experience of working within or with the European Union” to simulate talks on a post-Brexit research and innovation deal.

The meetings were overseen by Michael Leigh, academic director for the master’s of arts in European Public Policy at Johns Hopkins University, and a former senior European Commission official.

The simulation was based on a scenario that “the UK left the EU in late 2019, or early 2020, and that the ‘dust had settled’ following its departure”.

The simulation resulted in a deal that would allow Horizon Europe association. But the report raises concerns about the timescale for talks, with “a window of 11 months for the real negotiations on research and innovation” before Horizon Europe starts in January 2021.

“The likelihood of having the [wider] EU-UK future relationship concluded within 11 months seems remote,” the report says of the prospects if Horizon Europe membership is dealt with in those wider talks.

“The most likely outcome at this point is therefore that the UK misses the start of Horizon Europe due to delays in the Brexit process. Our analysis is that the best way to minimise disruption is by negotiating a standalone agreement as soon as possible, regardless of ongoing Brexit uncertainty elsewhere.”

It adds: “While formal negotiations that include association to Horizon Europe cannot begin until the legislation establishing the programme is finalised, this should not preclude the UK and EU from making progress on the  other areas that would need to be included in [a] standalone agreement.”

john.morgan@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (4)

No point in waiting on UK politicians, who do not appear to care about education and research - we need to get up and ensure UK participation ourselves, with universities and funders like the Wellcome Trust banding together and speaking to the EU directly about how we wish to proceed. We can tell the politicians later what we require them to do (they work for us, not the other way around, remember).
No point in waiting on UK politicians, who do not appear to care about education and research - we need to get up and ensure UK participation ourselves, with universities and funders like the Wellcome Trust banding together and speaking to the EU directly about how we wish to proceed. We can tell the politicians later what we require them to do (they work for us, not the other way around, remember).
No point in waiting on UK politicians, who do not appear to care about education and research - we need to get up and ensure UK participation ourselves, with universities and funders like the Wellcome Trust banding together and speaking to the EU directly about how we wish to proceed. We can tell the politicians later what we require them to do (they work for us, not the other way around, remember).
Apologies for 3 posts - it appeared that the comment hadn't been accepted by the page so I resent twice before giving up!

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