Horizon Europe & Erasmus+

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Horizon Europe & Erasmus+

Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe is the EU’s research and innovation programme. Worth EUR 95.5 billion over 7 years, it is the third biggest part of the EU budget, after agriculture and regional funding. When the UK was a Member State, it vied with Germany to be the biggest beneficiary in financial terms, with France way back in third place.  

Brexit has thrown that success away. By making cross-border scientific collaboration more difficult, Brexit is making it more difficult to save the planet from climate change, save lives from cancer and keep our economy competitive. 

Horizon Europe carries enormous economic weight – research and innovation are universally recognised as key to success for modern businesses and to the prosperity of modern economies. The programme aims to create 300 000 jobs by 2040, of which 40% will be highly skilled jobs.   

Erasmus +

Erasmus + is the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport. It is now the world’s largest international mobility programme, for all abilities, backgrounds and ages. In 2019 alone, Erasmus + helped in total almost a million people to study, train or volunteer abroad.  

Erasmus + enables – among many other things –  

  • Study in universities and other educational institutions abroad;
  • Hands-on experience abroad: work placements, internships, training;
  • Professional development exchanges for teachers, trainers, youth and sports workers; 
  • Support for networks linking local projects in different countries;
  • E-twinning: a platform for virtual communication between school students and teachers;
  • Adult learning and volunteering projects and exchanges; 
  • European Solidarity Corps: young people take part in projects for a more inclusive society. 

There is a particular emphasis on opportunities for those suffering from various types of disadvantage. All Erasmus + projects must meet environmental criteria.  

British young people - who either voted overwhelmingly to Remain or were too young to vote – have lost EU rights to work or study in the EU without red tape.  


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Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe is open not only to universities and research institutions but to the private sector, with a particular priority for small businesses.  The programme has many different components, ranging from funding under the European Research Council (ERC) for cutting edge projects led by stand-out individual scientists to European Innovation Council (EIC) support for ‘breakthrough innovation’ - transforming advanced research into successful products. 

Before Brexit, the UK was also a leading voice – perhaps the leading voice – in setting the priorities and steering the Horizon programme politically. 

Only re-joining the EU could give the UK back that influence and put us back in the lead in European science. Free movement and the single market are crucial to attracting the best – many world-class ERC backed researchers have left the UK since Brexit - and to turning science into prosperity.  

But in the meantime, the UK urgently needs to get back in the Horizon Europe team - and Europe needs us back in it – so that the UK and the EU can compete better with the US and China.  

UK scientists, researchers and innovators and their EU counterparts all want the UK back in.  

Obtaining associated status to Horizon Europe would restore full participation rights to UK beneficiaries, though on less favourable financial and political terms than apply to EU members. The 16 countries with such an agreement include Iceland, Israel, Norway, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine.  

Negotiations on UK association were advanced, but the EU side is unwilling to conclude them as long as the UK is threatening to break international law by reneging on the Northern Ireland Protocol.  

The European Movement would prefer the EU to keep the two issues separate and to go ahead and grant associated status to the UK. The EU should not punish scientists and researchers for the UK government’s dishonourable behaviour. But it is clear that the current situation has been created by the UK government’s conduct and the resulting – and understandable - loss of trust on the EU side. 

The government is working up proposals for a UK scheme to replace the funding that UK beneficiaries of Horizon Europe will now lose. But Horizon is about cross-border collaboration, not just money and by definition cannot be replaced by any national level provision.  

The longer it takes to agree UK participation in Horizon Europe, the more scientists and innovators will miss out, the greater will be the economic hit to the UK and (to a lesser extent) the EU and the harder it will become to reintegrate the UK later.  

Erasmus +

In 2017  - before the Brexit effect began to reduce numbers – there were about 17 000 UK participants in Erasmus +, while 32 000 EU nationals came to the UK. 

Boris Johnson promised in January 2020 that the UK would continue to take part.  In the end the UK did not even seek association. And Scotland and Wales were dragged out of the scheme against the will of their elected parliaments (there will be special arrangements for Northern Irish students).  

Regaining access to Erasmus + would reopen opportunities for all young people from all backgrounds (not just students), to acquire knowledge, learn new skills (including language skills) and to gain experience of other cultures.  

Re-integration in Erasmus + can help the UK to regain some of the soft power Brexit threw away. Erasmus beneficiaries hosted here have often established lasting connections with the UK. 

Self-exclusion from Erasmus + is costing the UK economy an estimated £243m a year, net. Visiting participants spend on everything from tuition fees to rent to food to entertainment. They are now taking that custom elsewhere, notably to Ireland. 

The government claims its Turing scheme has replaced Erasmus but this is false. Turing does provide some welcome opportunities, in particular for British people to study outside the EU. But Turing is one-way only, in contrast to the reciprocity and collaboration which underpins Erasmus+. And it offers little to those outside higher education. Erasmus + levels up far more than Turing.  

The government should rebuild trust with the EU and its Member States and – as a top priority – open negotiations to allow the UK back into Erasmus + as a fully associated non-EU country.