As Chair of the House of Commons Science & Technology Select Committee, Nicola took part in a public session of the Liaison Committee (a Committee made up of all Commons Select Committee Chairs) questioning the Prime Minister about the UK’s membership of the EU and the upcoming referendum on June 23rd.
10 Select Committee Chairs were able to question the Prime Minister about areas in relation to their respective Committees with regard to the EU, and Nicola took the opportunity to ask about the Government’s contingency plans in the event of a British exit from the EU and how it will impact upon the UK science base. Science is a major component of the UK’s membership of the EU, and almost one fifth of EU funding to the UK is spent on research and development (R&D). Many within the UK science community are clear on the benefits of the EU to UK R&D; in particular the advantages of free movement, harmonised regulations, access to EU research facilities and the availability of funding for research.
There has been much public discussion about alternative arrangements for the UK outside of the EU, but Nicola pushed the Prime Minister for a clear answer about whether the Government had ruled out Associated Country status and probe as to whether an impact assessment had taken place.
She also questioned the Prime Minister about whether the UK would find itself in a situation similar to Switzerland, who had a referendum on restricting free movement and were subsequently cut out from Horizon 2020, the EU Framework for Research and Innovation, and so the Government had to urgently institute a new programme to stop a detrimental effect on their science and innovation industry. She then moved on to grill the Prime Minister further about the impact of Brexit on the UK’s innovation sector and issues surrounding Intellectual Property (IP) and how a country with Associate Status could be able to exploit this valuable research, if at all.
The Prime Minister made clear his position that a similar status to Switzerland would not be desirable, and the Government’s aim to ensure that the UK continues to prosper as a science superpower. He was clear that when it comes to science and research, the case for remaining in the EU is very strong as in this sector we get more out of the EU budget for science and research than we put in and that this is ‘money well spent’.
The Commons Science and Technology Committee has been examining the impact of EU regulation and policy on UK Life Sciences– how EU legislation can best facilitate and avoid impeding collaboration and innovation in this sector, and will be publishing its report on this shortly.
You can read a full transcript of the session here.
The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has published its report on EU Membership and UK Science, which can be accessed here.
To register to vote in the EU referendum click here.