The chair of the UK’s House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has said that the government has “more to do” to provide certainty that the nation will be part of the European Union’s new €100 billion (£88 billion) research programme after Brexit.
The government published on 4 May its response to the committee’s report on Brexit, science and innovation.
There is still no certainty over whether the UK will take part in the next programme, Horizon Europe (formerly known as Framework Programme 9) as an associated country.
The committee’s report had called on the government to “state clearly that it intends to participate unless there is a material unfavourable difference between the programme and its predecessor, and [that] the UK is ready to pay a fair ‘entry fee’ to secure this”.
The government says in its response: “The UK highly values its participation in EU framework programmes and intends to engage fully and constructively in the design of FP9.
“To that end, we would like to ensure Framework Programme 9 remains open to our association. We recognise that such an association would necessarily involve an appropriate financial contribution in line with other associates and would like to discuss the details.”
The committee also urged the government to “ask the Migration Advisory Committee to bring forward its conclusions [the MAC is looking at patterns of EU migration and the post-Brexit immigration regime] in relation to the immigration arrangements needed to support science and innovation and build these into a science and innovation agreement with the EU by October 2018 or earlier if possible”.
But the government says that it looks forward to the publication of the final report “in September of this year to allow us to consider fully the recommendations as to the future immigration system”.
“We believe that the timescales set out for the MAC report are appropriate to meet the scale of the task set and have no plans to ask the MAC to expedite their review,” it adds.
Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the Science and Technology Committee, said: “The government’s response shows that there is still more for it to do to get the certainty that the science and innovation sectors need ahead of Brexit, to address the immigration concerns of the science community, and to get access to future collaborative research programmes.
“The case for the UK to be involved in the successor programme to Horizon 2020 is reinforced by the audacious announcement from the [European] Commission to substantially increase the budget for science research to €100 billion. The committee will continue to monitor these critical issues in the months ahead.”