The EU Horizon news is great, but this government shouldn’t be congratulating itself – letter to the editor

Dear Editor,

The British Science Festival is running in Exeter from September 7 – 10, co-hosted by the University with events happening across the weekend both on campus and in the city centre. 

This celebration of science links quite neatly to today’s announcement on the UK finally reaching agreement on membership of the EU’s Horizon Europe science research funding programme. Sunak and his government are pretty pleased with themselves but rather than another world-beating achievement, quite frankly, finally ratifying membership of the programme is the very least any government should have done, let alone a government trumpeting the UK as a science superpower while leaving us outside major co-operation opportunities.  

Meanwhile the Labour shadow science minister’s soundbite talks about the funding we’ve missed out on but misses the point that while money is vital, scientific discovery thrives in an environment of partnership and collaboration. We’ve been outside the tent for two damaging years years – unlike plenty of other non-EU associate members such as Israel – and now we have to play catch up, rekindle relationships and pivot back to research opportunities that were the norm before the Tories threw the baby out with the Brexit bathwater.  

The government’s press release boasts it’s a good deal for the taxpayer because of clawbacks that apply if we don’t win sufficient funding to merit our investment, but these benefits exist to mitigate the consequences of two years in self-imposed isolation. It’s like starting at a new school two years after everyone has made friends and found their tribe. Don’t get me wrong: the fact that we’re back in Horizon Europe is really great news to be celebrated but government’s self-congratulation can be ignored. Putting a coat on because it’s cold does not make you a genius.  

Yours sincerely 

Rebecca Harrison