The European Union and the United Kingdom benefit from joint research and innovation, as well as interconnected universities that strive for excellence and cooperation. Europe’s universities are united in their call to safeguard this research and innovation cooperation through fast association of the UK to the Horizon Europe programme. Many, deep and long-lasting partnerships are at stake. These are of high value to Europe as a whole – and to the world at large.
The lengthy process of associating the UK to Horizon Europe and other EU programmes is creating unnecessary insecurity within the European knowledge community, and this insecurity threatens plans for scientific cooperation – with negative consequences for both the EU and the UK. Europe’s universities therefore urge the European Commission and the UK government to finalise Protocol I linked to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement as a basis for UK association and to move onward to a fast and successful association of the UK to Horizon Europe.
Since the Brexit referendum in 2016, the European research and innovation community, including its UK members, has continuously demonstrated its unity in wishing to safeguard the valuable cooperation. This united stance remains.
Universities, researchers and others saw the conclusion of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement as a guarantee that both sides shared the view that common research and innovation efforts would be continued after the UK had left the EU. The Agreement and the draft Protocol I of the Agreement provide a solid foundation for this. The possibility for UK entities to apply in the first calls of Horizon Europe and the allocation of funds in the UK to finance participation in the programme gave further reassurance.
However, Europe’s universities strongly regret that, ten months after the publication of these documents, Protocol I remains an unfinished draft. There is little sign of progress and no clear, official timeline for the finalisation of the association agreement. While the specialised committees for other policy areas are already established, the Specialised Committee on Participation in Union Programmes has not yet had its first meeting.
The EU and the UK can be proud of their strong science landscape. Fostering cooperation and building on common strengths will be of high benefit not only for the continent, but for tackling global challenges more broadly. It is time to commit to a continued, common research and innovation community encompassing the UK and the rest of Europe.
This statement has been endorsed by the EUA Council, representing 34 European national university associations and national rectors’ conferences.