Scientists remain hopeful that the UK’s reassociation with Horizon Europe may now be achieved following the Northern Ireland ‘Windsor Framework’ deal and a warming of UK-EU relations. For over two years, talks have been put on hold due to Brexit trade deal negotiations and UK scientists barely benefitted from the £88.8bn programme.
This has already impacted UK scientists’ ability to apply for important grants, collaborate effectively with their European counterparts and has increased fears that the UK is becoming a far less attractive destination for European researchers and students.
Optimism has been renewed however, following comments by EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen. In an uncryptic admission, von der Leyen stated that the EU-UK deal on Northern Ireland was “good news for scientists and researchers in the EU and in the UK”.
The Government have insisted that their priority is to reassociate with Horizon Europe, however, were prepared to walk away and establish an international research partnership with other nations if progress was not made soon. These sentiments were echoed in the House of Lords by minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay in a Horizon Europe debate last week.
However, when asked directly on Wednesday by Tory MP Philip Dunne about whether talks to reassociate had already begun, the Prime Minister was evasive. Mr Sunak answered that the UK would “continue to work with the EU in a range of areas — not just research collaboration, but strengthening our sanctions against Russia, energy security and, crucially, illegal migration.” Therefore, it seems, there is work still to be done.