UK's uncertain future with the European Union will have an impact on decisions concerning funding and participation of the next Framework programme FP9, warns Peter Fisch, former head of unit in the European Commission’s directorate-general for research and innovation.
It is impossible to predict the next steps on Brexit, however the EU’s political processes do have clear timelines.
The European Parliament elections are supposed to take place in May/June 2019 and the new Parliament and the next European Commission, will presumably be operational in autumn 2019.
UK prime minister Theresa May’s promised to trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017 which leaves only two years for the Brexit negotiations to take place under the present Parliament and Commission. Any delays might push a settlement back to at least late 2019, by which time the two EU institutions will have changed personnel.
The next Framework programme FP9, is due to start on 1 January 2021. The basic legal documents, though, should be adopted well before this, so that all the necessary structures are in place from the beginning.
It seems that Brexit and the next Framework programme will be negotiated at the same moment. Adding up, the upcoming 2019 elections Parliament elections and the next European Commission, will lead to a difficult planning of the EU research policy.
The UK is currently the second-largest participant in Horizon 2020 and it is yet unclear in how far the UK government and UK MEPs will be involved in shaping the next Framework Programme. It is also completely unclear whether this programme will be based on a hard Brexit, without special status for the UK, or a soft Brexit with more or less full-access agreements. It could even be a “no Brexit”, should British politics take another dramatic turn.
This has obvious implications for research agendas, participation and funding.
Further, UK scientists begin to feel the consequences of the Brexit vote, as following the fall of the British pound prices of chemical reagents and lab equipment for UK researchers are being reported to be rising. US life sciences firm Thermo Fisher Scientific, which sells reagents, is increasing prices by about 5 per cent from 1 November and reagent supplier Newmarket Scientific has informed customers its prices are going up by 10 per cent.
The price rises also mean researchers will have to reduce costs for studies.