EU elections: our letter to UK party leaders

We have written to the leaders of the major UK political parties who are contesting the upcoming European elections on 23 May.

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I am writing to you to set out our thoughts ahead of the EU elections, which the UK may participate in later in May. These elections present an opportunity for your party to help secure a positive future for science and research, even while the Brexit negotiations continue.

Wellcome is proud to invest the majority of its £1bn annual spending on research in the UK, supporting over 15,000 jobs. We do this because the UK is a great place to do science, and because this research transforms human health in the UK and around the world. However, the UK’s leading role in this field should not be taken for granted. Care will be needed to ensure that researchers can continue working together on the big scientific challenges our societies face, without additional barriers being created when the UK leaves the EU.

Evidence shows that international collaboration makes science stronger. Scientific collaboration with our closest neighbours must continue to grow in the future, not diminish.

To support ongoing collaboration, Wellcome believes that a dedicated science and research deal should be struck as soon as possible after the UK leaves the EU. In the meantime, MEPs elected in May should show their support for science and research by promoting the following messages in Europe:

  • UK participation in Horizon Europe would bring benefits to UK science and to the EU, because collaboration makes science stronger. UK MEPs should push for the UK to have Associate Membership of the new framework programme, as this would help to minimise barriers to collaboration post-Brexit.
  • A reciprocal agreement to support researcher mobility is needed. The UK and the EU must both be open to the movement of researchers, technicians and their families — not because there is a shortage of home-grown scientists, but because the arrival of people with new ideas and different perspectives leads to better science.

The groundwork needs to be laid now to ensure that barriers to scientific collaboration are minimised, regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, and I hope your party’s MEPs will take this opportunity.

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