Published On: Tue, Feb 13th, 2024
World | 4,565 views

‘Nothing like it’: EU is missing out on ‘world-beating’ Horizon science hub over visa row | Politics | News

The United Kingdom has rejected claims from the European Union that scientists are shunning the country in the Horizon Europe research programme due to visa issues.

The denial comes after a meeting in London on Monday, where UK science, business, and research leaders were encouraged to make the most of Horizon Europe funding despite concerns over costs and visas for European scientists working in the UK post-Brexit.

The UK withdrew from the Horizon Europe programme in 2020, creating uncertainty for British researchers. After prolonged negotiations, the UK officially rejoined the scheme in January 2024.

However, concerns persist over the costs associated with participation and potential barriers for European scientists seeking to work in the UK.

Illiana Ivanova, the European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, addressed these concerns at a press conference after the meeting.

She said: “There were some concerns that were raised by researchers, and also related to the cost of fees, healthcare surcharges, salaries. I wouldn’t want to focus on what might be a potential division.”

Responding to the EU Commissioner’s claims, former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib told “The United Kingdom has a world-beating tertiary education facility, including three out of the top universities in the world.

“There is nothing like it in Europe. If European scientists are not willing to come to the UK, so be it!”

Last year, the UK was expected to rejoin Horizon Europe, focusing on critical areas such as medical research and climate change. However, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delayed the re-entry to secure a better deal on budget contributions, with the UK expected to contribute approximately €2.43 billion per year to the €95.5 billion Horizon Europe budget.

Earlier on Monday, Ivanova warned that Britain needed to ease visa procedures or risk missing out on the full benefits of Horizon Europe. She mentioned difficulties faced by European researchers going to the UK due to visa issues and higher costs.

However, British Science Minister Michelle Donelan refuted claims that the UK was facing challenges in recruiting participants. At the press conference, she stressed that the “key message” from scientists, innovators, and businesses was that association with the Horizon Europe project would support their interests and contribute to Britain’s economic growth.

Donelan acknowledged the concerns raised by the EU and said: “The British public voted to leave the EU to have more control and say over their decision-making. Of course, that means that on each and every one of these different aspects, the merits and topics would need to be reviewed and examined.” She emphasised that rejoining Horizon Europe was “somewhat of a no-brainer” and that the UK took its time to rejoin the project to ensure value for taxpayers.

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