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Euro tunnel vision


Ivory Tower: Exclusive access to the alternatives to Horizon Europe WhatsApp group

KwasiBEIS: I think we have to start planning for the worst-case scenario.

MichelleD: That he is going to go?

GeorgeFree: That he is going to stay?

KwasiBEIS: No, that we will not be able to join Horizon, the European Union’s research and development programme.

MichelleD: Good thing too.

GeorgeFree: No, we want to join.

MichelleD: I’m confused.

GeorgeFree: Imagine young people growing up watching their universities sliding down the international league table because the research money is going elsewhere.

MichelleD: Because of woke?

JustRaab: And political correctness, remember that? Whatever happened to that?

BrandonLewisNI: Because of Northern Ireland.

MichelleD: The woke Irish?

Liz4MP: Like Graham Norton?

KwasiBEIS: It’s got nothing to do with woke.

MichelleD: Doesn’t it?

BEISCivServ: The problem is that Whitehall does not have good intelligence.

GeorgeFree: There wouldn’t have been all those wine and vomit parties.

BEISCivServ: No, about Northern Ireland.

BrandonLewisNI: Yeah, it’s a real puzzle. I’m stumped.

BEISCivServ: We’ve been rather blindsided about what’s going on at the border.

BrandonLewisNI: Which one? The one in the sea or the one on the land?

MichelleD: I did history rather than geography, but don’t they meet one another?

KwasiBEIS: No.

MichelleD: Are you sure?

KwasiBEIS: They are incompatible.

MichelleD: ?

BEISCivServ: The suspicion in Brussels is that the English don’t understand anything about Ireland.

GeorgeFree: I once backpacked from Belfast to Killarney.

BEISCivServ: In County Kerry?

GeorgeFree: No, Belfast, South Africa, to Killarney in Zimbabwe. We listened to Bob Dylan and…

KwasiBEIS: Look, with all the shenanigans over the Protocol we need to start planning for an alternative.

Liz4PM: To the protocol? Absolutely.

MichelleD: I thought the Horizon Europe protocol was part of the Withdrawal Agreement? And that was oven ready.

KwasiBEIS: Someone forgot to take the plastic off.

Liz4PM: He means the Northern Ireland Protocol.

BrandonLewisNI: We have plans to break it in a limited and specific way.

GeorgeFree: The protocol?

BrandonLewisNI: The law.

GeorgeFree: Sorry, are we still talking about Downing St parties?

SuellaB: I approve.

BrandonLewisNI: Of the parties or breaking international law?

SuellaB: Err… can I go 50:50?

KwasiBEIS: Whatever, the thing is if Northern Ireland goes south then we need an alternative.

MichelleD: I have questions.

GeorgeFree: He means we need a domestic alternative to membership of Horizon Europe which will be the envy of the world.

MichelleD: Like the Turing scheme?

GeorgeFree: Nothing like the Turing scheme.

KwasiBEIS: We can’t wait much longer; we need an alternative at home.

BrandonLewisNI: Shame about Rishi.

Liz4PM: Hello!!!

BEISCivServ: A domestic alternative for international collaboration in science and research.

MichelleD: Would not doing international collaboration be an alternative?

GeorgeFree: That’s what we are doing at the moment.

BEISCivServ: Or not doing.

MichelleD: Would some sort of tsar help?

Liz4PM: A Russian! Absolutely no way… unless they want to donate.

JRMBrexit: As the minister for Brexit benefits, I am happy to chip in ideas about how not being a member of Horizon Europe’s exclusive and elitist club would be a good thing for this sceptred isle.

KwasiBEIS: Go on then.

JRMBrexit: Well, we would be free to have our own domestic alternative for international collaboration in science and research.

KwasiBEIS: Give me strength.

BrandonLewisNI: Can I add, whatever we do, it’s really important not to raise tensions or offend the Irish.

MichelleD: What about free speech? We are legislating for an Englishman’s right to be offensive.

JustRaab: So are we.

SuellaB: I approve.

GeorgeFree: Of two pieces of legislation proposing the same thing in the same parliament?

SuellaB: Let me ask a lawyer, I’ll get back to you.

KwasiBEIS: Give me strength. Look, has anyone got any ideas about alternative research programmes?

BrandonLewisNI: Which don’t cause offence to the Irish or enflame the situation in Ulster.

GeorgeFree: I’ve given this one a lot of thought. We need to replace the flagship European Research Council schemes. So, I was thinking of something similar called an International Research Award.

BEISCivServ: An IRA?

GeorgeFree: To cut down research red-tape we could have an expression of interest stage, at which we could make a provisional international research award.

BEISCivServ: A Provisional IRA?

JustRaab: I think you are on to something there.

BrandonLewisNI: No, you can’t call it that!

GeorgeFree: OK, I’ve got others, we need to replace the cross-border network scheme, but I’d like to see something that produces research with impact and is sustainable beyond the lifetime of the award.

KwasiBEIS: Sounds good.

GeorgeFree: I’d call it an International Network Legacy Award.


JustRaab: I think you are on to something there.

BrandonLewisNI: Absolutely not.

KwasiBEIS: This is you thinking about something for a long time?

GeorgeFree: We also need something to replace the Marie Curie awards, so a similar scheme but named after a great British hero.

MichelleD: Like Alan Turing?

GeorgeFree: Yes.

MichelleD: Oliver Cromwell?

BrandonLewisNI: Dear God!

Liz4PM: What about naming it after a popular royal?

SuellaB: Meghan?

Liz4PM: Prince William is head of the FA and the air ambulance, so why not a Prince William award? Academics like a nickname, they could be called Billies.

BrandonLewisNI: What happens when he becomes king?

Liz4PM: Then you have King Billy awards.

BrandonLewisNI: I think I want to cry.

Liz4PM: Yeah, totes, it’s such a good idea.

GeorgeFree: I’ve got others. We need a fellowship scheme that covers the whole world not just Europe, but which promotes value-for-money for the taxpayer. I would call it a Universal Value Fellowship.


GeorgeFree: And a mobility programme for research students to move across the globe, or Universal Doctoral Association.


JustRaab: I think you are on to something there.

BrandonLewisNI: What is wrong with you people?

Liz4PM: IRA, INLA, UVF, UDA, Cromwell and King Billy? Sounds to me as if you’ve cracked this one George.

BrandonLewisNI: Dear God, they are all names of deeply divisive figures or proscribed organisations.

MichelleD: Like the NUS?

BEISCivServ: Not exactly.

BrandonLewisNI: They have all been cancelled by the Good Friday Agreement.

MichelleD: I can sort that.

JustRaab: Now that you say that they do sound familiar. I had not fully appreciated this.

KwasiBEIS: Look, do we actually have an expert on Europe here?

ATouchOfFrost: The EU’s refusal to allow us entry to its science scheme that we win every year, is the result of too many mask-wearing liberal academics restricting people’s freedoms by refusing to buy British cars and remoaning about the lack of food on the shelves in Waitrose.

KwasiBEIS: Next. [deletes from group]

Liz4PM: Next month, I’ll be in Southern Ireland opening up cheese markets.

KwasiBEIS: Next. [deletes from group]

JustRaab: There are two Irelands? I had not fully appreciated this.

KwasiBEIS: Next. [deletes from group]

MichelleD: Can we still be offensive to the French?

KwasiBEIS: Next. [deletes from group]

SuellaB: I approve… whatever it is.

KwasiBEIS: Next. [deletes from group]

JRMBrexit: What about an industrial strategy for cotton mills and steam locomotives?

KwasiBEIS: Next. [deletes from group]

GeorgeFree: Research University Clusters?

KwasiBEIS: Next. [deletes from group] Is there anyone still there?

BEISCivServ: I am… oh hold on, just had a text about civil service job cuts… apparently, I’m not anymore. [unsubscribes from group].

KwasiBEIS: Hello? Anyone? Any international expert out there?

WhartonCon: I swear I didn’t know there were antisemites in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary.

KwasiBEIS: Next. [deletes from group] Anyone?

KwasiBEIS has unsubscribed, group deleted.

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