My Lords, if a week is a long time in politics, then 14 months must be an aeon. From today’s vantage point, this report feels almost optimistic. Between then and now, others have, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, memorably phrased it in March, captured the castle. If it is ironic that the best way to win friends and influence people is to have stayed in the EU, there is a double irony that even early last year it felt that we had a desire to maintain real contact with Europe. Sadly, much of the whole point of Brexit for Brexiteers is to sever many of those ties of communication and co-operation.
We had another taste of what may come on Sunday evening, when the Prime Minister talked—inappropriately, I felt—of developing a world-beating system for Covid testing, when Covid is a prime example of how we need to co-operate as a continent and, indeed, as a world in discovering the best ways to beat the virus. The irony of that, of course, is that the UK’s ability to be a major part of Covid research will be threatened if we lose access to Horizon Europe, the successor to Horizon 2020.
This excellent report correctly identifies EU and other European agencies as means of exerting influence, although the benefit of co-operation—friendship, if you will—is the key in scientific research, in education and culturally. Those of us who believe in such continuing co-operation need to keep pressing the Government on these matters, so I ask the Government whether they are still actively seeking for the UK to remain a meaningful—that is, participating—member of the Horizon programme and Erasmus. It will be a tragedy if it is left only up to individuals and individual institutions to maintain such contacts as they can without the recourse to any of the facilitating structures that other European countries will continue to have.