UK rejoining EU Horizon program after years of ‘untold damage’
Although rejoining Horizon was met with pleasure and relief by many prominent scientists, some are warning that much damage has already been done to Britain's science sector.
Britain has recently rejoined the EU's Horizon research program, something that experts have warned should not be immediately celebrated.
The final revelation last week that ministers had agreed to rejoin Horizon was met with pleasure and relief by many prominent scientists, after years of Brexit.
A July YouGov poll indicated that 63% of Britons believed Brexit to be more of a failure than a success and 51% expressed they would like to rejoin the EU.
A further 70% expressed that the UK government was handling Brexit badly.
The UK government has been negotiating to rejoin Horizon since 2020 after its membership was halted due to a lengthy disagreement over Northern Ireland's trading regulations.
However, several scientists have now cautioned that the inability to access Horizon for so long has caused irrevocable damage to UK science. This was a moment when Britain might have played pivotal roles in significant programs on climate change, artificial intelligence, and new treatments.
According to Professor Bart De Strooper, a group leader of the UK Dementia Research Institute at University College London, there is "little reason" to celebrate, since “for the past few years we have faced complete uncertainty about what is happening in key research areas. Britain used to dominate the Horizon program, and it will take a long time to get back to such a position.”
Professor Sir John Hardy, a neurogeneticist at the same institute agreed with the stance, explaining to The Observer that the country's absence in the last 3 years has "had a number of detrimental effects," making the UK a "less attractive place to do science."
“We have not been part of the great science that Horizon funds and we have lost the trust of European colleagues. Will we leave Horizon again in the future, they might ask. Many scientists have simply left the UK and, post-Brexit, moving between the UK and labs in the EU has become a slow, costly, bureaucratic nightmare. All other things being equal, why would people want to do that?”
Professor Matthew Freeman, head of the Dunn School of Pathology at Oxford University, stated that although he did not know "what took so long," the news is positive, as it will allow the UK to able to recruit notable scientists internationally to come to Britain.
Another Professor, Martin Rees, emeritus professor of cosmology and astrophysics at Cambridge University, expressed that all have been "frustrated" by the delay in reaching the agreement.
In July, a faltering economy had the UK join a major Indo-Pacific trade bloc as the former EU member looks to expand its business relations beyond its European borders.
London has been pushing a "Global Britain" strategy since formally severing nearly 50 years of ties with its nearest neighbors in the European Union three years ago.
The deal was concluded after two years of talks as the UK pushes for its "Global Britain" strategy.
What is the Horizon programme?
Horizon Europe is the world's biggest civil research and innovation programme, as defined by the European Commission. Its budget from the EU alone stands at €95.5 billion, in addition to the contributions of associated countries. It supports EU member states and associated countries in unlocking their national research and innovation potential by funding frontier research projects, fellowships, breakthrough innovation, and the mobility of researchers.
Horizon Europe aims to tackle some of today's biggest global challenges, such as health crises or the fight against climate change, as it reinforces technological and industrial capacities across the EU.