The UK’s withdrawal agreement will have important implications for research, says the EU commissioner for research and innovation.
The lifeblood of science is the free flow of ideas. Any barrier to the collaboration of scientists across countries is therefore a negative.
One of the great achievements of the European Union has been to bring down these barriers and create the largest international research programme in the world. This has brought enormous benefits to science right across Europe, not least in the UK.
Right now, I see enormous anxiety among scientists in the UK, and indeed right across Europe, that Brexit will harm this progress. The UK referendum has created enormous uncertainties that need to be lifted.
My heart goes out to the thousands of researchers from across Europe who have pursued their scientific dreams and built their lives in the UK, and who now find themselves facing uncertain futures.
This is why the negotiating guidelines agreed by the heads of state of the 27 EU countries make a clear distinction, and sequencing, between the withdrawal agreement and the future partnership. The first task of the negotiators has to be to manage the UK withdrawal from the EU in a way that minimises legal uncertainty.
The EU will put citizens first in these negotiations. EU citizens, including researchers and their families, who have built their lives on the guarantees derived from EU law to reside, study and work on both sides of the channel must be able to continue their lives as before.
The second big-ticket item for the first phase of the negotiations, the financial settlement, is also particularly important for research. Without such an agreement, we will not have legal clarity about ongoing collaborations funded by Horizon 2020.
Looking to the future, I see the core values of the next EU research and innovation programme to be excellence, openness and impact. Throughout the 30-year history of the Framework programme, the UK has passionately supported these values, and it is my fervent hope that it will continue to do so. Science, by its nature, creates a strong international community.
Now is the time for this community to come together, to be the voice of reason for more openness, to encourage more collaboration, and to protect the future of science in Europe.
Carlos Moedas is the European commissioner for research, science and innovation.
This article also appeared in Research Fortnight’s 500th issue, guest edited by Andre Geim.