For many public and private sector bodies, the continued access to EU sources of funding is an important issue and this is often overlooked by the national media which looks at issues such as trade and security.
The UK Brexit White Paper mentions funding programmes in Chapter 3: Cross-cutting and other co-operation. The White Paper proposes a series of co-operative accords “that enable the UK and the EU to work together in areas ranging from science and innovation to development and international action.” It adds culture and education; defence research and capability development and space to these accords.
The White Paper states “each of these accords should support joint activity by the UK and the EU including providing for the participation of UK individuals or entities in EU programmes and enabling the exchange of experience and information. Where the UK and EU have an accord, the UK would make appropriate financial contributions.” The White Paper also mentions the need for governance arrangements in the accords. It explicitly mentions Horizon Europe – the successor programme to Horizon 2020 – and notes that 16 countries are associated with Horizon 2020.
Currently, the UK is the second biggest recipient of Horizon 2020 grants behind Germany and is a key source of funding for UK partners in developing hydrogen fuel cell applications in transport and energy. It is important that the detail of these accords continues to allow UK partners access to this vital funding.
The White Paper notes that “Regulations for the next generation of EU funding programmes are likely to be agreed over the next year, allowing for third country participation.” It then goes on to say that the Regulations and Programme Documents “should inform the development of co-operative accords but the UK and EU may wish to go further.” It is difficult to see how going further would be implemented as all remaining Member States would have already agreed the funding programme.
The European Commission has also taken account of Brexit when drawing up the draft Regulations for funding programmes. In many Programmes, the entry of non-EU third countries has been made easier.
The White Paper also wants to see the continuation of the PEACE Programme between Ireland and Northern Ireland. EU Regional Policy and the Structural Funds are not mentioned at all. This is hardly surprising. During the last negotiations of the Structural Funds, the UK Government made its intention plain and said that it did not want to take part in the Structural Funds post 2020. The European Commission has already proposed a cut of 40% in the budget for some transnational INTERREG Programmes that the UK was previously involved in to cover the loss of UK funding.
How should current and potential UK partners interested in EU funding respond? Firstly, UK partners can still apply for most current funding Programmes that are open. These include INTERREG and Horizon 2020 as the UK Government has agreed to meet its financial obligations in the current EU budget period. Successful projects can continue to spend up to 2023 in INTERREG and 2024 in Horizon.
UK organisations interested in research and innovation programmes like the future Horizon Europe Programme should lobby the UK Government to ensure that these co-operation accords are developed, agreed and signed. It is also important that the Brussels dimension is taken into account and that lobbying of the EU Institutions takes place to ensure that the content of research and innovation programmes is relevant to the work of UK partners from both the public and private sectors.
UK stakeholders may also have to lobby over mobility arrangements post Brexit. One paragraph in the White Paper states “the UK and the EU will also need provisions that allow for mobility in relation to these accords, for example enabling scientists to attend conferences and musicians to perform at concerts.” The involvement of UK partners in EU projects goes much further than involvement in the odd conference and we need to make the UK Government aware of the implications of being involved in an EU project and, more importantly, the benefits that accrue from this involvement.
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