I hope to oblige the noble Viscount. The Government are moving forward in discussions with the EU on the UK’s involvement in Horizon Europe. We hope that negotiations will be successful, and that is our preference. But participation must be on the basis of a good deal for UK researchers, businesses and taxpayers, reflecting the lasting impact of two years of EU delays. If we are unable to secure association on fair and appropriate terms, we will implement Pioneer, our bold and ambitious alternative.
My Lords, that is a less encouraging reply than I had hoped for. The scientific community, notwithstanding any intransigence by the EU, feels that the tragedy of Brexit has been the damage done to British science. Does the Minister not accept that there are many aspects of Horizon Europe that are of key importance to the UK, and that we have benefited from it in the past? I had a letter the other day from Cancer Research UK, pointing out that Horizon Europe offers
“unparalleled opportunities for the promotion of cancer research in the UK and Europe”.
Is this not sufficient to drive the Government to join, rather than to continue talking about the possibility of a plan B? We want plan A, and I wish that the Government would bring it about.
I thank the noble Viscount for his question, and let me take the opportunity to commend the work of Cancer Research UK. The Government’s preference is to associate to Horizon, for the reasons he very ably sets out. However, it must be on fair and appropriate terms that reflect not just the past damage done by our missing two years, during which we were not associated with Horizon Europe, but ongoing and future uncertainties that not being associated have inevitably created for us. We have done the responsible thing by putting in place a suitable alternative, but I stress that it is not our preferred outcome of these very welcome talks with the EU.
Following on from the question from my noble friend Lord Stansgate, the Government must explain exactly where they are here. We were led to believe that after the Windsor Agreement, the UK’s transition to the Horizon research programme was to be straightforward. What has made the Government go through this rethink? How much has the country lost in net worth in investment in research and development by doing the hokey-cokey with the Horizon programme, given that we were massive net beneficiaries under the old EU scheme? We need clarity. We were promised this, and I do not understand why the Government are messing around with research and development in this country. We were promised that we would get better results by coming out of Europe, but we are not. We are going backwards.
I stress again that our preference is to go back into the Horizon programme. We are in negotiations with the EU to achieve that. We have understood our own requirements for doing that and are seeking them. The noble Lord would not expect me to comment on an ongoing negotiation, but our hope is that we can arrive at a deal which is fair and appropriate for UK taxpayers, businesses and, of course, universities. As to the results over the last brief period of negotiation since the signing of the Windsor Framework, I cannot put a figure on exactly how much research has not been conducted over the two months of the ongoing negotiations.
Can my noble friend reassure us that the Government understand that there is a world beyond white Europe? At least 15 other countries have signed up to the Horizon programme. It is not just research in Europe, but research in the world—India, the United States and elsewhere. We should look well beyond white Europe and accept not just any deal on Horizon, but one that benefits British scientists too.
I thank my noble friend for the question. Regardless of which route we go down, multilateral global collaboration across the scientific and research community is crucial and highly valued by all participants. If we take the Horizon route, then, as my noble friend says, there are 15 countries outside the EU 27 that are associated with Horizon. If we go down the Pioneer route, which is not our preference, that will emphasise global collaboration, whether with the EU 27 or beyond. Additionally, we recently launched the International Science Partnerships Fund to support UK researchers and innovators to work with international partners on some of the most pressing themes of our time.
My Lords, the Windsor Framework agreement came forward on
I thank the noble Lord for the question—I am absolutely able to provide that assurance. It is being treated as a matter of great urgency and as I said, our preference is to reassociate to the Horizon programme on terms that are fair and appropriate to us. I cannot comment on the specific terms of the negotiation or our specific negotiating purpose and outcomes, but it is being treated very seriously and is in hand.
My Lords, do His Majesty’s Government understand that rejoining Horizon is not about just the financial aspects? The Minister has talked several times about the benefits and cost to the taxpayer. This is about international networks, which are invaluable and without price. I refer to my declaration of interests.
I thank the noble Baroness for her question. The UK is on record as seeking to become a science and technology superpower by 2030. Our preferred outcome, Horizon, is absolutely a key component of that. If we are obliged to go down the Pioneer route because we are unable to establish a fair and appropriate agreement with Horizon, that will be a key component as well. As she said, this goes beyond simple financial considerations.
My Lords, some of us in this Chamber were still in the European Parliament for the three years following the referendum. Many of us noted the European Union’s unfortunate intransigence on not only Horizon but other matters. This was not necessary, because it was not cut and dried that the UK would not be involved with the Horizon programme in the future. Does my noble friend agree that there is no justification for this procrastination? It is up to the EU side to get cracking and sort out this extremely important matter.
I thank my noble friend for her question. When the TCA was agreed in 2020, our association to Horizon was agreed as part of that. That no longer happened, but it remains the UK’s wish to rejoin Horizon. With respect to the attitudes on both sides, I welcome the EU’s current openness to engage constructively in these negotiations.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that, as Sir Paul Nurse has pointed out, science and the arts depend on the exchange of ideas, and that one of the most vital things is social and intellectual intercourse with other countries? At the moment, musicians and scientists are finding it terribly hard to come here, and we are finding it hard to go there. Thus, a vital source of inspiration is being lost.
I thank the noble Lord for his question. I cannot comment specifically today on musicians and cultural exchange. Whether we go down the Horizon route or the less preferred Pioneer route, we will seek global collaboration with the EU 27 and beyond on all research and development matters.