The awful events in Westminster last week gave us all time to reflect, both to think of those who lost their lives or are still in hospital but also of the freedoms we hold dear and that we must continue to cherish. Our emergency and security services once again showed their bravery, rushing towards a situation that everybody else runs away from. Last Wednesday’s events showed us at our best, demonstrating a calm and determined resolve to carry on whatever the challenge and we should be proud of that.
Last week, LabourList published my article on the Euratom nuclear treaty and Article 50. We now know Theresa May will trigger Article 50 this Wednesday, 29th March, and this formally begins the process of the UK leaving the European Union. However, Wednesday will also mark the start of the UK leaving Euratom, a completely separate Treaty. As I write in the article, “Leaving the Euratom Treaty without ensuring there is a proper replacement to its provisions is very dangerous – not to put too fine a point on it but there are life and death implications. Life-saving radiotherapy treatments are managed through our membership of Euratom. Our nuclear energy sector provides around a fifth of our electricity and is dependent on our membership of Euratom.”.
I was delighted to speak at the launch of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee’s report on ‘Science Priorities on Brexit’ in Westminster on Tuesday. I was keen to stress that we must demonstrate the UK’s willingness to work with the EU going forward through programmes such as Horizon2020 and Euratom. However, I expressed my concern that the mood in Brussels is turning against the UK following Theresa May’s decision to not guarantee the rights of EU citizens living and working in Britain. The complexity of the forthcoming negotiations haven’t been discussed widely but there is a huge amount at stake for the science and innovation community and the government must do more to protect their future, for all our sakes.
It is important to ensure that we address gender inequality in all parts of EU policy, including those aimed at entrepreneurship and innovation. To this end, this week I supported the amendments that my colleague, Sirpa Pietikainen (EPP), suggested for the report on the extension of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). This report presents an excellent opportunity to ensure that future investments are in line with gender mainstreaming values, and I was pleased to co-sign amendments suggesting that the Steering Board should be gender balanced, and that we should actively seek to provide assistance for projects initiated, owned, and led by women.
In Budget Committee last week, I tabled amendments to a report on Horizon 2020, which funds programmes in universities. Horizon 2020 funds, on average, a third of UK universities’ income. In fact, the UK gets back £3 for every £1 we invest into Horizon 2020, including millions for universities in the South West
The report looks at the future of the EU’s science programmes and it is vital that the UK remains part of these programmes.
My amendments focus on maintaining scientific excellence as the core pillar of the Horizon 2020 programme for Research & Innovation. We cannot allow Horizon 2020 to be watered down from this key aim. I have also tabled amendments that affirms the Parliament’s commitment to reduce as much as possible the potential negative impact on Horizon 2020 of the EFSI negotiations.