UK and EU research leaders urge Brexit negotiators to compromise on Horizon Europe agreement

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In a joint statement published today, the Wellcome Trust and over 100 organisations and individuals representing the research community across the UK and Europe have set out how negotiators could secure an agreement on UK participation in the EU’s major research framework programme.

As negotiators continue the fifth round of discussions on the post-Brexit EU-UK relationship this week, the statement sets out a series of compromises that both sides could make to tackle disagreements over the terms of the UK’s association to the Horizon Europe programme.

Signatories reflect the research sector in the UK and Europe, and include Universities UK, the Wellcome Trust, the European Universities Association, the Russell Group and the European Society for Paediatric Oncology. The list of individuals also includes Carlos Moedas, former European Commissioner for Research, Science & Innovation, Pascal Lamy, former Director-General of the WTO, and Sir Paul Nurse, FRS Nobel Laureate for Physiology or Medicine 2001.

Participation in EU Funding Programmes has been discussed frequently as part of the post-Brexit negotiations. Ensuring that countries beyond the EU – including the UK – can join the Horizon Europe programme will help researchers to tackle shared challenges, such as cancer and climate change. It would also reflect the EU’s ambition of making Horizon Europe ‘open to the world’.

However, there has been too little progress towards an agreement. The joint statement offers a set of solutions to known sticking points in the discussions, including on:

• Demonstrating UK commitment to the programme
• Ensuring a fair financial contribution through a ‘two-way’ correction mechanism
• Accepting EU oversight of the use of programme funds
• Agreeing to introduce reciprocal mobility arrangements to support the programme
• Clarifying that the results of research can be exploited beyond the EU

The statement argues that, with enough will on both sides, it should be possible to reach an agreement before the Horizon Europe programme is due to begin in January—but time is rapidly running out.

The UK and EU research community is now counting on negotiators to find a way forward in the coming weeks, for the benefit that research brings to citizens across the globe.

Notes
1. The joint statement can be found in full here https://wellcome.ac.uk/sites/default/files/reaching-agreement-uk-participation-horizon-europe.pdf
2. For further information, please contact Beth Thompson, Head of UK/EU Policy, Wellcome b.thompson@wellcome.ac.uk
3. Supportive quote from statement signatory Professor Peter Piot, Director, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, press@lshtm.ac.uk

I am proud to join the over 100 organisations and individuals across the scientific and research community in the UK and Europe who have come together set out how an agreement on the UK’s continued participation in Horizon Europe, can and should be reached with utmost urgency.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest public health crisis in more than 100 years. Our lives will only return to normal through international collaboration, innovation and excellent science.

That is one of the many reasons why the UK, with its world-leading scientists and ability to drive forward strong international research partnerships, must continue to be a part of Horizon Europe.

Time is running out and it is imperative that an agreement is reached as soon as possible. We will not be able to end this pandemic, or tackle the many other major threats to human health such as climate change, without a unified, transparent and truly global scientific community.

The UK’s continued participation in Horizon Europe must remain at the heart of any future research relationship between the EU and the UK. Without it we may jeopardise decades of progress made through collaboration, shared knowledge and joint discovery.

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