Now that the Windsor Framework has been agreed, it’s time to take the next step in rebuilding the UK’s relationship with the rest of Europe, by getting UK scientists, innovators, and researchers back into the EU’s Horizon Europe Programme.
Hard Brexit demolished the UK’s status as Horizon Europe’s biggest beneficiary and as arguably the biggest contributor to the Programme’s many scientific and other successes.
Horizon Europe brings incredible opportunities for scientists to work together, harnessing Europe’s finest minds.
Before Brexit, Horizon Europe brought the best and brightest from all over the world to our universities. Many of them stayed on, putting the UK front and centre in global science and innovation.
But not just that – Horizon Europe has created hundreds of thousands of jobs here in the UK and across Europe.
Brexit changed everything. Far fewer world-leading scientists and their most promising students have been coming. Instead, they chose to locate to or remain in Europe.
Now, despite the EU saying it’s willing to let Britain back into Horizon, the government seems to be stalling. We need to ramp up the pressure so that UK scientists don't keep losing out.
As a Professor of Molecular Biology, the first Chief Scientific Advisor for Scotland and then to the President of the European Commission, I know how important Horizon is to both the UK and the EU. It makes crucial contributions to tackling the biggest challenges we face, from cancer to climate change and supports the innovation we will need for a fair and successful future.
So, I am asking you to support the European Movement’s campaign to return the UK to Horizon.
Until now, Horizon has been used as a political pawn, a negotiation tool in the Northern Ireland Protocol stand-off between the UK and the EU.
But now they have no excuse. The UK should not be outside Horizon Europe for a moment longer.
UK scientists, researchers and innovators have missed enough opportunities thanks to Brexit. We must not deprive them of still more.
This is right for the UK and right for the EU. Last week, the European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said that work to allow the UK to join Horizon Europe should “start immediately”. But there are reports of divisions within the UK government, between those who understand the clear benefits and others who are focused on “post-Brexit freedoms”.
It needs to stop. The clock is ticking. The UK needs access now to make the most of these opportunities for all of us.
Getting the UK back into Horizon Europe will not repair the damage Brexit has done to science in the UK. But it is a start – a step along the way.
Prof Dame Anne Glover FRS FRSE