UK keen to 'maintain collaboration' with EU on science projects

The UK wants to continue post-Brexit collaborations with the EU on science and innovation projects, ministers are stressing in a new position paper being put out as part of the withdrawal negotiation process.

The latest in a series of position papers is intended to ensure that the brightest minds would still be attracted to work in Britain, Brexit Secretary David Davis said.

The paper, published on Wednesday, is laying out mechanisms on how Britain and the EU can work together in pan-European programmes in areas like space and nuclear research.

The Government is keen to keep partnerships going in sectors like the space industry which is worth £11.8 billion to the UK economy and employs more than 37,000 people.

The paper is setting out the precedents for non-EU countries to participate in Europe-wide projects, and stressing that the UK will continue to collaborate through international organisations not controlled by Brussels.

Mr Davis said: "This paper sends a clear message to the research and innovation community that we value their work and we feel it is crucial that we maintain collaboration with our European partners after we exit.

"We want to attract the brightest minds to the UK to build on the already great work being done across the country to ensure that our future is bright and we grow this important sector."

Science Minister Jo Johnson said: "From space exploration and developing better and safer medicines, to nuclear fusion research, the UK and Europe have a long history of close collaboration to meet the world's great challenges.

"It's in our mutual benefit to maintain this successful partnership, and this paper clearly outlines our desire to have a full and open discussion with the EU to shape our joint future."

James McGrory, executive director of Open Britain, which campaigns against a hard Brexit, said: "The Government is going to need to do more than cross its fingers and hope if it wants to reassure British scientists and researchers who are worried sick about the possible consequences of Brexit.

"Cooperation with our European partners is vital to Britain's science and tech sectors, and any reduction in that cooperation will damage our universities and put British jobs at risk.

"And ministers need to explain how their desire to continue close cooperation with the EU on science can possibly be squared with their red line on ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice."

Allie Renison, head of EU and trade policy at the Institute of Directors, said: "We welcome the clear stated objective from the Government of prioritising future collaboration with the EU on a range of science, research and innovation areas after Brexit.

"The reference to examining ways in which non-EU countries can take part in European programmes in these areas should send a boost of confidence to industry and higher education bodies that the Government intends to prioritise participating in these cross-cutting, collaborative ventures.

"The IoD has long argued that the Government should spell out its objectives in this space, even if it will take some negotiation to achieve them, and warrant continued payments into the EU budget to maximise our access to them.

"However, we have also seen from Switzerland's experience that putting controls on free movement of people has had consequences for its continued participation in these EU initiatives.

"We would hope that furthering our shared interests in advancing science, research and innovation cooperation is kept as free from other politicised parts of the negotiations as possible."

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