After three years of dedicated negotiations, the UK and the EU signed a trade agreement on December 24, 2020, which came into force on January 1 of this year.
Since the 2016 referendum, BHF has been working hard to ensure that researchers still have access to EU funding, can go to work abroad, and access treatment and clinical trials for people with heart and circulatory disorders in the UK. .
This blog takes a look at what we know from trading so far.
Will UK researchers still have access to EU funds for research?
UK researchers have benefited greatly from the EU’s recent research and innovation programme. From 2014 to 2020, UK researchers received more than 7 billion euros in the’Horizon 2020′ program that funded researchers across the EU. Indeed, the UK is the second only to receive 12.1% of all funds after Germany.
Non-EU countries were also able to participate in these programs as’sub-members’ and we have long been asking the UK to agree to this type of membership since Brexit. However, some of these programs come at a cost, and historically, British researchers have received more from the program than the government pays (the former is based on the quality of the research proposal, and the latter is determined by the size of the UK economy). .
There were concerns that both sides would disagree with the UK joining the next version as the EU insisted that non-member countries should not make a net profit from the program and the UK was reluctant to increase its donations significantly. Program’Horizon Europe’.
Despite these concerns, it was very reassuring that the UK had agreed to participate in programs included in the Christmas Eve trade agreement. The deal introduced conditions that prevent the UK from paying too much for the program compared to what UK researchers receive on the program, and vice versa.
This has been one of BHF’s main priorities in trading transactions. Horizon Europe will allocate nearly 100 billion euros to researchers over the next seven years. This diversity of funding opportunities and continued access to valuable networks and research infrastructure for UK researchers will help provide stability to the UK research base.
However, uncertainty remains as to whether support for this program will affect the existing domestic science budget. Instead of recycling £14.6 billion for research allocated by the government in 2021/22, BHF is working to allow the government to allocate new funding to the program.
Want to know more? We have signed a joint statement to help negotiators deal and highlight the importance of funding EU research.
Can EU researchers still live and work in the UK?
From January 1, the government has introduced a new points-based immigration system that treats EU citizens and non-EU citizens who want a work visa equally. Under the new points-based system, most people who want to live and work in the UK must meet certain salary criteria to take language tests and get a visa.
However, to encourage international researchers to work in the UK, the government introduced a new Global Talent Visa (GTV) in February of last year. This visa route makes it easier for researchers, teams (including technicians supporting research) and families to get work visas. What they need is for their name to be included in a successful grant application from an approved funder. BHF is on this list with most major research funding providers.
In a 2018 survey of BHF researchers, we are excited to include these important terms in the new term as we know that researchers’ ability to take their families is a key factor when considering whether to take a research position in the UK. GTV offers a lucrative pathway for researchers looking to work in the UK.
Since the introduction of the new scheme, we have been working with other UK funders to lower the cost of obtaining a visa. The average initial cost of a researcher and employer combined visa is just over £8k. This is 540% higher than the average cost of other major scientific countries. There are many factors that attract researchers to the UK, including some of the world’s best research institutions and state-of-the-art infrastructure, but this expensive visa cost can affect the UK’s ability to attract global talent.
Can UK patients still participate in EU clinical trials and access new drugs?
As a member of the European Union, our medicines and clinical trials have been regulated by EU law through the European Medicines Agency. The law allowed the rapid approval of new drugs (through mutual recognition agreements) and the UK was able to participate in ongoing clinical trials across the EU. Clinical trials are very important to patients, provide critical evidence that a diagnostic test or treatment is safe and effective, and accelerate approvals and’go to market’ for broader patient benefits.
One of our priorities since the start of discussions on the UK-EU trade agreement has been to ensure that patients with heart and circulatory disorders still have access to important new drugs and benefit from clinical trials.
To achieve this, we have been calling for a coordinated regulatory framework between the UK and the EU in both pharmaceutical and clinical trials. It may sound complicated, but it means that both sides are aware of standards for pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and even simple regulatory differences can be barriers to collaboration, so they use the same definition of’clinical trial’.
Although there has been no change in the existing clinical trial environment in the trade deal, some questions have been raised about the need for an EU-based legal representative for the bureaucratic hurdles that could hinder collaboration, especially for UK-led trials across the EU. The UK is also awaiting a decision from the EU on whether important data protection regulations are sufficient to ensure data flow between both parties.
Drug regulation is carried out by the UK’s Drug and Medical Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), which is currently overseeing Covid-19 vaccine approval. The agreement should include measures to ensure’regulatory cooperation’ and recognize each other’s standards of drug quality, minimizing the threat to the drug supply. The UK government should also set up a fast approval process for new drugs to accelerate the process of bringing drugs to market.
We will continue to work with the government to ensure that people with heart and circulatory disorders still have access to clinical trials and get the medicines they need.
Can we stop talking about UK-EU relations now?
This trade deal provides the necessary clarity on all of the above issues, but there is still a lot of discussion. For example, it’s not yet clear where funding for the UK and Horizon Europe alliance will come from, but how long regulatory coordination could be sustained in clinical trials between the two parties is not yet known.
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