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EU Scientific Co-operation

Volume 642: debated on Thursday 14 June 2018

11. What steps the Government are taking in their withdrawal negotiations to facilitate ongoing scientific co-operation between the UK and EU. (905841)

As the Prime Minister set out at Mansion House and reinforced at Jodrell Bank, the UK is committed to establishing a far-reaching science and innovation pact with the EU, facilitating the exchange of ideas and researchers, and enabling the UK to participate in key programmes alongside EU partners.

Ongoing co-operation is clearly in both our and the EU’s interest, but world-leading scientists often explain how they need to move to and fro between different countries in order to build knowledge. Will the Minister ensure that the visa system post Brexit will enable researchers to have that flexible mobility?

We have been very clear throughout the process that we want the UK to continue to be able to attack the brightest and the best and to be a magnet for key talent around the world. The announcement of the new start-up tech visas is a good indication of how UK immigration policy can contribute in this space.

The Minister mentions that we want to attract the brightest and the best but missed some of what the question was about, which is of great concern to my constituents in the University of Bristol: the free flow of researchers and scientists around the European Union and the exchange of knowledge. They, and scientific firms in my constituency, say that they are already struggling. What further clarification can he please give?

We have reached some important agreements already with regard to the implementation agreement and the continuation of our existing membership of Horizon during the whole period until the end of the multi-annual financial framework. We now want to secure the science and innovation pact, which we have been discussing in our meetings with the Commission, and those meetings have been constructive and positive.

As a trustee of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, may I ask the Minister what assurances he can give me that the UK Government will provide at least as much funding, through whatever mechanism, after we leave the European Union as is now given to the universities and institutes around this country?

My hon. Friend asks me an interesting question, which is probably more appropriate for a Treasury Minister to answer, but I recognise its importance. The UK is stepping up investment in R&D with our target to ensure that 2.4% of GDP is spent on it. That will make us one of the leading countries in the world for investment in research.

The Rheumatoid Arthritis Pathogenesis Centre of Excellence in Glasgow relies not only on the movement of people and talent but on the movement of medical samples across borders. What will the Minister do to ensure that medical samples can travel unfettered across the EU after Brexit?

The hon. Lady raises a very important point. Having visited the university in Glasgow to talk about some of these issues, I recognise the world-leading research that takes place there. Of course we want to ensure that patients in the UK and the EU continue to benefit from the exchange between us. That is why we have talked not only about co-operation in science but about the benefits of the UK’s continued participation through associate membership of the European Medicines Agency.