Jointed Letter to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission and Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister

Dear President von der Leyen and Prime Minister Johnson,

For the last four years, the European and UK research community has been calling for continued scientific cooperation post-Brexit. In this late state of the negotiations, we urge you to find a compromise. This is the final opportunity to use these negotiations to ensure that future generations everywhere can continue to benefit from the results of UK-EU scientific collaboration.

Our shared experiences tell us that we should now be building on the successful EU-UK collaborations we have known for decades, not scaling back. We must continue to work together to tackle shared global challenges, including the current pandemic, where research is the only exit strategy. We’ve found it encouraging that both of your teams have continued to discuss research in the negotiations and have committed to the principle of full UK participation in Horizon Europe. This mutual mandate must now translate into action.

A practical agreement can, and must, be found. This summer, over 100 organisations and researchers signed a compromise statement that proposed solutions to some of the sticking points in negotiations. These included ensuring fair financial contributions, accepting EU oversight of programme funds, and agreeing to introduce reciprocal mobility arrangements. In the current political context, it will be most important to build trust on both sides, including the UK demonstrating its commitment to the programme.

A decision against UK participation in Horizon Europe would have fundamental and long-term consequences. It would fracture European research collaboration, undermine the ambition of the programme and threaten its future success, and hold back our collective efforts to compete on the global stage. This is becoming increasingly important with the rise of China as a large research power, and the continued dominance of the US. Domestic efforts to replicate the scheme cannot replace the value of being part of the world’s largest multi-lateral programme.

The UK’s participation in previous programmes has benefited us all and it must continue. We urge you to use the final stages of talks wisely, to find common ground and to deliver for research.

Yours sincerely,

Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director, Wellcome

Pascal Lamy, Jacques Delors Institute

Maria Leptin, Director, EMBO

Carlos Moedas, Trustee of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Former European Commissioner for Research, Science & Innovation

Nathalie Moll, Director General, European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations

Sir Paul Nurse, Director, The Francis Crick Institute

Tobias Bonhoeffer, Director, Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology