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Government responds to Science & Technology committee report on Brexit

04 May 2018

Read our short digest of today’s release

The Government has today published its response to the House of Commons Science and Technology committee report on Brexit, science and innovation. In their introduction, the Government welcomed the report and outlined its aspirations to secure the best possible outcome for the UK research base.

…continuing to build the broadest and deepest possible partnership with the EU on Science and Innovations remains a top priority.

We value the strong collaborative partnerships that we have across the EU in the areas of science, research and innovation and recognise the important contribution they make to the UK.

The first recommendation in the report was that the Government should signal it will be partaking in FP9 unless materially unfavourable in comparison to Horizon 2020. The committee also recommends that the UK should be ready to pay a fair entry fee to a future programme. In response, the Government said:

The UK highly values its participation in EU framework programmes and intends to engage fully and constructively in the design of FP9. To that end, we would like to ensure Framework Programme 9 remains open to our association. We recognise that such an association would necessarily involve an appropriate financial contribution in line with other associates and would like to discuss the details.

Aside from a concrete promise, the Government clearly recognises the importance of remaining within the future framework programme, should it remain excellence-based. The Government is also keen to ensure that the UK would command a degree of influence in FP9 in line with financial contributions it should make.

The Government will not be following the second recommendation from the committee to bring forward the reporting date of the Migration Advisory Committee:

We note the contents of the MAC’s interim report, published on 27 March, and look forward to the publication of the final report in September of this year to allow us to consider fully the recommendations as to the future immigration system.

The Government also touched on changes they have made to current immigration rules for non-EEA workers, such as doubling the number of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas available and changes to Resident Labour Market Tests. Immigration and the work of the Home Office is under the spotlight at the moment and we are continuing to seek clarity and data on how the tier 2 refusals are affecting our sector. The Government has a lot of work to do in order to make the UK an attractive place for skilled workers, including scientists and engineers.

The committee’s third recommendation relates to the Science Minster’s latest statement on clinical trials:

The Science Minister’s response to us on clinical trials regulation is unsatisfactory. His position that “the current regulatory approval legislation will stay in place until such time as any changes are needed” ignores the fact that work is needed now to ensure that the UK can participate in and lead clinical trials in the future. We recommend that the Government revisit this statement in its response to our report.

The Government response was a more in depth but falls short of a commitment to align with the EU Clinical Trials Regulation that many are calling for:

Our national system is being designed to accept the same application package and to function similarly to the future EU system under the CTR, so we will have an efficient and effective approvals system for trials, regardless of the Brexit outcome.

The final recommendation from the committee was that the Government must make drafting and negotiating a science and innovation agreement a matter of urgent priority. The Government responded by saying:

The UK has consistently expressed its desire for continued collaboration on S&I with the EU. This position was reinforced by the Prime Minister on 2 March 2018 who reiterated that the UK is committed to establishing a ‘far-reaching science and innovation pact with the EU, facilitating the exchange of ideas and researchers.’ We would like to discuss possible options as soon as possible.

The committee state they do not agree with ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ in the context of negotiating a scientific agreement, and that such agreement must not become a knock-on consequence of other negotiations. It would be a win-win situation to get such an agreement in place as part of the wider agreement anticipated in October.

Read our response to the inquiry into Brexit, science and innovation

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