Brexit, Science and Innovation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:05 pm on 6th September 2018.

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Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb Chair, Science and Technology Committee (Commons), Chair, Science and Technology Committee (Commons) 1:05 pm, 6th September 2018

I accept the hon. Gentleman’s point, but it is also important to say that, internationally, the Horizon 2020 funding scheme is regarded as the best in class. There are those, among both Brexiteers and remainers, who support participation in the scheme because it just makes sense for science. I would be grateful if the Minister updated us on progress on the critical issue of negotiating a satisfactory way for this country to participate.

Shortly before our report was published, the Prime Minister’s Mansion House speech set out the Government’s intention to secure

“a far-reaching science and innovation pact with the EU”.

That would, in principle, address such concerns about our future relationship. A key recommendation of our report back in March was that the Government should therefore seek to agree such a pact as soon as possible. We argued that, because co-operation in science and innovation is a win-win for both the UK and the EU, getting an early agreement could set a positive tone for the rest of the negotiations. Sadly, that particular opportunity has now all but evaporated and discussions on the high-profile political issues are, of course, intensifying against a backdrop of red lines and deadlines, which are getting ever closer.

We see a need for urgency on this. Ongoing uncertainty is damaging to future collaborations, as partnerships and bids take time to develop. At the moment, no one who is considering bids for funding under the successor programme has any idea whether we will be part of it or not.