Brexit’s inevitable gravity weighs on UK scientists
Timing should tell you everything. Liz Truss, the frontrunner to replace Boris Johnson, is also in charge of the Brexit issue. The brawl with Brussels is a tried and tested way to appeal to Conservative voters.
Like the whole Brexit debacle, this debate perfectly captures how the UK’s hardline approach quickly runs into the wall of economic and political realities. Researchers will be paid more. They are at risk of losing access to a nearly $100 billion pot called Horizon, the largest science-funding program of its kind, as well as a variety of other research programs. Euratom and others engaged in nuclear innovation. Copernicus, Earth Observation Activities, and Space Programs.
Formally, science has nothing to do with product testing in Northern Ireland. Of course, unofficially they are all linked. The goal at the time of the UK-EU trade deal was for the UK to become an affiliate member of Horizon. However, the EU postponed the Horizon Association Agreement after the Johnson government announced its intention to unilaterally rewrite the divorce terms linked to trade with Northern Ireland. Blocks are no joke either. Previously, Switzerland was excluded from the funding program due to disagreements between the other two countries.
The dispute process will commence with 30 days of negotiation, followed by arbitration. If the EU is found to have violated and not complied with a trade agreement, the UK can seek compensation. If the EU refuses to pay compensation, the UK can pursue certain trade remedies.
Before that, there are many potential off-ramps. But as Zach Myers, Senior Research Fellow at the European Reform Center, points out, much of the damage has already been done. Both sides suffer from the lingering dispute, but as with most Brexit issues, the UK has more to lose.
The Horizon program (in its current form Horizon Europe will run from 2021 to 2027) will advance medical science, improve our understanding of Covid-19, improve leukemia treatment, and create zero-emission buses. We fund collaborations that lead to innovation in hydrogen-powered batteries. , among other achievements. Before Brexit, more than a third of his UK research papers were co-authored with European scientists. Association status allows the UK participant to apply for grants on the same basis as her EU applicant and lead an international team.
Brexit has already had a considerable negative impact on British science. This means the departure of scientists and researchers who felt unwelcome or had to move to the EU to secure access to funding. The UK’s annual share of EU research funding fell by almost a third between 2015 and 2019. Prior to the Brexit referendum, the UK received 16% of Horizon subsidies in monetary terms. By 2018, it was just 11%. About 115 grants from Horizon ended in July for the current line.
No problem, said Johnson. He only exchanges funds. Last month, the government rolled out Plan B. At the very least, this suggests that the roughly £15bn ($17.7bn) set aside for Horizon over the next decade will not be channeled into other more pressing needs. The UK did something similar when it withdrew from the EU’s Erasmus student exchange program and created its own “Turing” programme.
Still, in both cases, the UK version is a poor substitute for the original.Meyers shows that while the UK was getting more out of Horizon financially than it put in, it lost more. He points out that it is a qualitative factor that Horizon’s breadth and prestige meant many economies of scale, including less overhead than standalone programs. Establishing new partnerships can take longer and be more complicated there is. Coordination of regulations between the UK and her EU has facilitated cooperation in areas such as animal testing.
The UK has long lagged behind in R&D spending. And despite having some of the world’s top research universities, few innovations appear to have been commercialized. It also costs foreign researchers to obtain visas and move to the UK.
“It’s in the UK’s interest to make it look like these are alternatives to EU programs, but they’re not,” says Meyers. Plan B is better than no plan. But setting up a unilateral scheme and saying it was as good as a multilateral one has always required a bigger leap of confidence than the government could hope for. Participation in departmental programs is possible, but this will only increase costs at the cost of fewer benefits.
After taking office, if her front-runner status is indeed confirmed, finding an off-ramp would be a smarter option for Truss. We can, but having an association agreement with the EU would do more to show how serious we are about improving productivity and growth.
Bloomberg Opinion Details:
• UK aspiring leaders keep quiet on Brexit: Clive Crook
• PM Johnson resigns, but damage to UK lingers: Max Hastings
• The Brexit Promise Boris Johnson Failed to Keep: Vince Cable
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Thérèse Rafael is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering healthcare and British politics. Previously, The Wall Street Journal he was the European editorial page editor.
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