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Horizon Europe and Brexit: Latest Developments

Horizon Europe and Brexit: Latest Developments

Written by Scott Ramsay, WRoCAH PhD student.

7 October 2019

Horizon Europe and Brexit: Latest Developments

We know roughly what Horizon Europe – the EU’s next funding programme for research and innovation – is going to look like. In March 2019, the Commission and the Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the budget, which the latter endorsed on 17 April. While the Commission has proposed a budget of €94.1bn, the Parliament has proposed one of €120bn. Whichever figure they finally agree on, Horizon Europe will be the EU’s largest ever investment in Research and Innovation. Once the final budget – which logically should be somewhere in between these two figures – has been approved, the EU will be able to finalise the details of the two major outstanding aspects of the funding programme: Partnerships and Association Agreements. Of course, there has been a big elephant in the room since June 2016: Brexit. Until the UK and EU have negotiated their future relationship, the Parliament and Commission can do little to take budget debates forward.

Partnerships and Association Agreements: What do we know so far?

In the case of Partnerships, there is much more clarity than that which we have for Association Agreements, although the Commission is still in its consultation stage. In May 2019, details emerged of 44 potential Horizon Europe Partnerships. In September, Member States proposed an additional nine Partnerships which the Commission is yet to discuss. The Commission has also opened online consultations for twelve proposed institutionalised Partnerships, the deadline for which is 6 November.
The Commission has said previously that it wants fewer Partnerships in Horizon Europe than in Horizon 2020, which currently has over one hundred, so it is possible that the next funding programme will adopt all of those which have so far been proposed. Of course, the Commission wants a simpler, streamlined structure for Partnerships for FP9 which achieve higher impact, and has proposed three types:
• Co-Programmed: Based on Memoranda of Understanding / contractual arrangements; implemented independently by the partners And by Horizon Europe
• Co-funded: Based on a joint programme agreed by partners; commitment of partners for financial and in-kind contributions and a financial contribution from Horizon Europe
• Institutionalised: Based on long-term dimension and need for high integration; Partnerships based on Articles 185/187 of TFEU and EIT-Regulation supported by Horizon Europe

We know much less about Association Agreements. During the European Research and Innovation Days held in Brussels on 24, 25 and 26 September, Deputy Director General for Research and Innovation, Signe Ratso, said negotiations for Association Agreements are unlikely to get off the ground until next year. One issue holding back discussions for the present is final agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). Once this has been agreed, detailed discussions on Horizon Europe’s budget can begin. However, with the EU and UK at an impasse over Brexit, the EU cannot be sure whether it can count on an annual contribution from the UK of approximately €13bn, or whether it needs to ask other Member States to make up for this gap in funding.

The Commission has said previously that it wants to change the formula for Association Agreements so that a country’s association fee is equivalent to that money its researchers take out of the programme. If this becomes embedded into EU legislation, it could make an Association Agreement less attractive to the UK, which has been a net beneficiary in previous FP cycles. Carlos Moedas, who will end his five-year term as Research and Innovation Commissioner in October, has expressed on several occasions in the past that he cannot envision Horizon Europe without the UK. Meanwhile there has been little mention of Horizon Europe by British politicians in recent months. Hammering out the details of Horizon Europe and the relationship the UK has with European science and innovation will depend on developments in UK politics over the coming weeks and months, and on the outlook of Moedas’s replacement, Mariya Gabriel.

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