Science Minister George Freeman has been drafting up a “Plan B” after Britain was excluded from the EU’s £80billion research and innovation project over Brexit disputes. Britain was supposed to join as part of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), contributing £15billion over seven years so the science community could access those funds and help form long-term fellowships and international industrial collaborations for UK universities and researchers.
Ms Truss has been urged to strike a deal with the EU and resolve Brexit disputes such as fishing licences and the Northern Ireland protocol so the UK can re-join.
Although he has a “Plan B”, the Science Minister does still appear to be pushing for the UK to gain Horizon Europe association and will be hoping Ms Truss can secure a deal.
He posted on Twitter: “Back to work for a crucial year for UK Science, Research & Innovation & my core Missions: Science Innovation, Innovation Nation.“
He added that one of his New Year priorities is “Horizon: continue to push for UK association, alongside a bold Global Britain Plan B”.
But much of the science community in Britain has argued that joining Horizon Europe is vital and don’t seem too keen on a “Plan B”.
Julian Hitchcock, who specialises in EU and life science law, responded: “We don’t want Plan B.
“If Truss fails to secure Horizon Europe, many UK researchers will have a significant additional incentive to join EU research establishments.
“Those establishments might reasonably target key UK researchers. Plan B simply can’t compete, however you spin it.”
Simon Tucker, founder of Zinc and trustee at The Charter Schools Educational Trust, wrote: “UK innovation priorities. But if we don’t get into Horizon the rest amounts to very little.”
Others seemed relieved that Mr Freeman had not given up hope in Britain joining Horizon Europe.
What Mr Freeman’s backup plan would involve is an expansion in the scope of Britain’s international science collaboration.
Mr Freeman wrote: “In the longer term, we would establish an ambitious offer that delivers many of the advantages of Horizon association along with additional benefits of wider global participation.
“Partnerships with the European research community will remain at the core of our international research offer, but we are also looking to strengthen other relationships, including in the Indo-Pacific and North America.”