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Committee welcomes EU science cooperation

18 May 2021

The European Scrutiny Committee – the parliamentary body that analyses the impact on the UK of new or proposed EU laws – has welcomed planned UK involvement in a big EU science research project for academia and industry called ‘Horizon Europe’.

However, the Committee has also asked the government urgent questions about how UK participation would be funded.

Horizon Europe is a pan-European project which is in the process of being legislated for under EU law. Some of the most urgent Horizon calls for proposals from scientific research bodies are already open. These include calls for research into Covid-19 vaccines and treatment and a call for future solutions for energy storage technologies.

The European Scrutiny Committee’s analysis of the UK relationship with Horizon Europe, summarized here, is set out in full in the Committee’s latest report attached to this mail.

The report includes analysis of other topical aspects of EU legislation, many of which are vital to the interests of the UK. Although the UK has left the EU, it still has close trading, cultural and other ties with its European neighbours. The European Scrutiny Committee keeps a careful eye on EU legislation to see how it impacts on the UK.

It is estimated that UK association with Horizon Europe would require a financial contribution of £12.7 bn. for the seven years from 2021 to 2027 inclusive. This is a gross figure, before deducting items such as any subsequent inflow of funds back from Horizon into UK scientific projects.

UK scientific researchers have expressed concerns that the government might expect much of this funding to come from existing domestic research budgets.

The cost of previous participation in the Horizon Europe programme - – when the UK was an EU member state – was covered by the UK’s overall contribution to the EU budget.

The government has made proposals to pay towards some of the costs of Horizon Europe, but not all of them. The European Scrutiny Committee has therefore written to the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, Amanda Solloway MP, seeking clarity on the government’s proposals.

The Committee noted that £12.7bn over seven years was just an estimate and could vary, depending on factors such as actual UK spending on research, receipt of grants to the UK from Europe and exchange rate variations.

The letter to the Minister said the funding proposed by the UK nevertheless appeared to be less than the likely total cost of UK association with Horizon Europe. The Committee asked if the Minister could please tell them how the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe would be funded and said it looked forward to a response within ten working days.

More analysis from the Committee

The European Scrutiny Committee regularly analyses the impact that new or proposed EU legislation may have on the UK. The full report containing the Horizon analysis is attached to this press release. This latest report also includes the Committee’s analysis of:

  • proposed EU legislation to ensure delivery of vital services such as drinking water and Wi-Fi when faced by natural or man-made disasters;
  • proposed legislation to allow the legal transfer of data, necessary for law enforcement and trade, from the EU to the UK;
  • EU information on the management of fish stocks shared between the EU and the UK;
  • EU plans for regulating the pharmaceutical industry which may need to be followed to some extent in the UK because Northern Ireland must, under the Brexit deal, follow some EU rules on medicines; and
  • a strengthened role for the pan-EU policing network, Europol, which could impact on cooperation between Europol and UK National Crime Agency.

Further information

Image: CCO