Exiting the Eu: Science and Research

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 19th December 2016.

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Photo of Jo Johnson Jo Johnson Minister of State (Department for Education) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education) 6:30 pm, 19th December 2016

The Chancellor’s statement of 13 August was an extremely important one, and it did a great deal to help to put aside the uncertainty of the science and research community about its ability to participate in competitively won funding streams. The Treasury has made it clear that it will be good for guaranteeing payments that fall due to UK institutions after the moment of Brexit. That has significantly helped to reassure our scientists and researchers that they can confidently bid for funding streams in the months ahead.

It is not in our interests to turn away from our long-standing partnerships. That message was reinforced by the Prime Minister when she stated that the Government are committed to a positive outcome for UK science as we exit the European Union. Our priorities in that respect can be broken down into two core issues: continuity in international research collaboration and maintenance of the factors that make the UK the location of choice for some of the best minds on the planet. With regard to a smooth departure from the EU, the two core inputs into those issues are funding and people.

On funding, as I have just said, the Chancellor announced in August that the Treasury will guarantee all successful, competitively bid-for EU research funding that is applied for before the UK leaves the EU. That means that UK participants and their international partners can be confident that they will have the funding necessary throughout the life of their Horizon 2020-funded project. The UK, as hon. Members know, has benefited strongly from Horizon 2020, with more than 5,200 participations and more than €2.6 billion of funding support since 2014. We are top of the table for participations and second only to Germany in funding won.

In addition to underwriting the competitively bid-for research funding, the Chancellor has confirmed that funding will be guaranteed for structural and investment fund projects signed before the UK departs from the EU. We have worked closely with the European Commission to provide swift reassurances. Commissioner Moedas stated immediately after the referendum that

“as long as the UK is a member of the European Union, EU law continues to apply and the UK retains all rights and obligations of a Member State.”

That helps us to reinforce the message that we still have the same terms of access to European research funding, including Horizon 2020, for as long as we are a member of the EU.

When it comes to people, we recognise the significant contribution to our research base made by non-UK EU nationals. The Prime Minister made it clear again earlier today that during negotiations she wants to protect the status of EU nationals who are already living here. As a global hub for research excellence, we will always welcome the best and the brightest. Others are concerned about EU national students and the rules regarding their student loans from the Student Loans Company, and I reassure the House that those rules are unchanged and remain in force.