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LONDON — Top researchers in the U.K. and Europe have called on leaders to use the final stages of Brexit talks to reach a deal on science collaboration, warning of the “fundamental and long-term consequences” if relations break down.
The plea to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen comes amid growing concerns the U.K. is planning to walk away from taking part in Horizon Europe, the EU’s roughly €12-billion-a-year R&D scheme.
U.K. officials and science policy experts have warned that the financial contribution due from London has become a big stumbling block in the negotiations.
“This is the final opportunity to use these negotiations to ensure that future generations everywhere can continue to benefit from the results of U.K.-EU scientific collaboration,” reads the letter, signed by Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust; Paul Nurse, Nobel-prize winner and director of the Francis Crick Institute; and Pascal Lamy, former EU trade commissioner and director of the Jacques Delors Institute, among others.
“A decision against U.K. participation in Horizon Europe would have fundamental and long-term consequences,” they write. “It would fracture European research collaboration … It would also hold back our collective efforts to compete on the global stage, not least with countries including China and the U.S.”
Some British MPs have said they fear the government will not secure participation in Horizon Europe beyond 2021. “I do worry we are moving away from association to the program,” one Conservative MP said.
In London, conversations have in recent months centered on how much Britain would be asked to pay into the program versus how much it would receive.
Modeling by a group of British vice chancellors,