Beyond Brexit (European Union Committee Report) - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:19 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Broers Lord Broers Crossbench 5:19 pm, 12th May 2020

My Lords, I compliment the European Union Committee and my noble friend Lord Boswell on this report. I agree with all that it says, but I suggest that it should have said more, especially about the continued participation of the UK in the new European education, science and innovation programmes. These programmes include Erasmus, which was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and Horizon Europe and those of the European Research Council and the European Research Infrastructure Consortium. In this report the words “Erasmus” and “Horizon” appear only in footnotes and in a diagram, although reference is made to the European Union Committee’s comprehensive report published in February 2019 on Erasmus and Horizon. Overall, however, this report does not give them the prominence they deserve.

Our future competitiveness as a modern nation will depend to a huge extent on the skills of our citizens in all spheres of endeavour, and our economic survival will rely on the application of modern advances in engineering and science. It seems we have successfully negotiated our continuance in Horizon 2020 through to its conclusion in 2021, but the situation with Horizon Europe remains unclear. That programme has a budget of €100 billion and even more important than the money will be our involvement in the partnerships that it would provide. Modern advances in science, and especially in innovation, can be made only through collaboration. It is an inherently global activity and success is strongly influenced by proximity, so a large fraction of our collaborations have been with our European neighbours. Our engineers and scientists know each other. There is a lot of mutual admiration and successful collaboration. Let us make sure that that continues. Many pages of the report are devoted to the specialist committees and their importance, but I could not find any committee devoted specifically to our collaboration on education, science and engineering whose members are engineers and scientists. Will the Minister assure us that the Government are committed to doing all they can to preserve as many of our educational and scientific collaborations with Europe as possible?