Commenting on the publication of the white paper, our Director of Science & Communities, Dr Jo Reynolds, said: "The paper gives us a much better understanding of the UK government’s position on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, including on issues concerning our chemistry community. It is clear that the government recognises the importance of continued collaboration and a strong relationship between the UK and the EU on science and innovation. It is positive to see many of our community’s asks regarding association to framework programmes, mobility of people and regulatory cooperation reflected in this vision."
Science and innovation is one of five areas where the government is proposing specific cooperation agreements with the EU. The white paper suggests that a science and innovation 'cooperative accord' should be set up to enable UK association to Horizon Europe, facilitate continued UK-EU collaboration through networks, policies, agencies and infrastructure that bring mutual benefit, and keep open channels for regular dialogue between researchers, regulators and experts from the UK and the EU.
A central part of the white paper is the proposal to maintain a 'common rulebook' with the EU regarding regulation of goods, including agricultural products. This would include chemicals regulation. "We welcome the UK Government’s intention to seek a 'common rulebook' on chemicals and a partnership with the European Chemicals Agency. This partnership and alignment are important for frictionless trade and scientific collaboration that drives good standards of environmental and consumer protection," says Jo. "However, much of the detail is yet to be negotiated."
"We’ll continue working with Government to make sure that our future regulatory system serves the needs of the chemistry community and that the outcome will benefit society. High calibre UK scientific and technical input into ongoing harmonised regulation remains important to the future of both UK and EU innovation. Close joint working with EU agencies is vital to continue our strong and mutually beneficial collaborations."
Future framework for mobility
The white paper also mentions the UK government’s ambitions for a future framework for mobility that would be linked to the UK’s future economic partnership with the EU. The new framework aims to enable easy movement of citizens for tourism or temporary business activity, ‘talented people’ and students and young people. The exact details of the immigration system that will deliver this mobility framework will be developed after the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) publishes their reports on international students and EU migration in September. We will continue our influencing work here, following up our recent submission to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.
"Collaboration is key to global scientific success and the UK needs to associate to Horizon Europe so that we can continue to work together with partners across the EU and the world to develop solutions to the challenges that we all face”, says Jo. “We also know the importance of mobility to science. We look forward to seeing more on the mobility framework following on from the conclusions of the MAC, but we know that for science to flourish, the UK must make it easy for scientists and innovators to move to and from the UK, with their dependents.
"What is vital now is to continue discussions with our colleagues in UK government and in Europe, seeking an outcome that achieves our chemistry community’s priorities. Achieving rapid certainty on the UK’s future relationship with the EU is essential to making sure our scientific collaborations with the EU continue without the interruptions that could jeopardise scientific progress across Europe and beyond. Our future relationship is critical not just for those working in science and innovation, but society more broadly. We hope that our community across the UK and the EU will call on their governments in the UK and in EU member states to engage in constructive dialogue so that we can reach an agreement that preserves and strengthens scientific collaboration.
"The exact nature of reaching an agreement here is still a complex and detailed part of the forthcoming negotiations, which are likely to be fast-moving. We know there could be – and we are planning for – multiple outcomes, including a 'no deal' scenario, which we recognise would have severe impacts on our community.
"We know that these issues and uncertainties over Brexit are a concern for many in our community, so over the coming weeks we’d like to talk to you about how working with the EU affects your research or business. If you would like to help us build case studies to inform and influence the aspects of Brexit negotiations that affect you most, please get in touch."