Exiting the Eu: Science and Research

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:40 pm on 19th December 2016.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 9:40 pm, 19th December 2016

I simply say to the hon. Gentleman that it is very clear that the Government have the ambition of securing that through the negotiations. We have raised the issue at the European Council and the response the Government have received is that there is no negotiation without notification. We need to secure this issue through the negotiations. However, as many colleagues have said, including my hon. Friend Chris Green and the hon. Member for Strangford, there are opportunities to support the needs of the research and scientific communities to attract global talent in the future. It is a mark of success that the UK is the second greatest destination for international students after the USA.

This debate has underscored what we have been hearing as to just how vital international collaboration is to successful research. We have also heard about the importance of access to European and global research infrastructures. Every international collaboration is different, and we will need to look carefully at all of them to ensure that UK scientists continue to have access to cutting-edge equipment and co-operations. In the majority of cases, UK access to research facilities is not dependent on being a member of the EU. For example, at CERN, we are a member in our own right and this will continue. The European Space Agency is another example of where our involvement is not dependent on the EU, and my hon. Friend the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation has mentioned the continued investments we are making there.

We have taken no final decisions on how our future relationship on research with the EU will look. There are a number of options under consideration, but let me stress that international collaboration in this space is nothing new. We are thinking through how best UK researchers can continue to be able to work with the very best of their international counterparts, both European and more widely. We start from a strong basis: a recent survey showed that 47.6% of UK articles were internationally co-authored. In line with our Prime Minister’s vision for a global Britain, we should seek to keep building on that. The decision to double our investment in the Newton Fund was a positive statement of intent in this regard. As my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport made clear, we must take the broader global opportunities. I should add that John Mann, who is no longer in his place—[Interruption.] Oh, there he is—sorry. I greatly welcome the hon. Gentleman’s endorsement of our strategy for the great repeal Bill.

I would like to close by saying that the Government are committed to ensuring that research and innovation in the UK will continue to be a major success story after we withdraw from the EU.