COVID-19 shows UK-EU collaborations are irreplaceable

COVID-19 shows UK-EU collaborations are irreplaceable

The Department of Earth Sciences’ Ben Fernando, along with colleagues from other scientific and political backgrounds have reflected on the UK’s upcoming departure from the European Union, and the impact this will have on vital research going forwards.


With the end of the Brexit transition period three months away, it is now impossible to develop separate UK equivalents to European Union and European Commission science and knowledge-exchange programmes that have a total value approaching €100 billion (US$118 million) over their lifetimes. Writing in a Correspondence in Nature, geneticist Paul Nurse, astronomer Martin Rees, former prime minister Gordon Brown and colleagues (including members of the lobby group Scientists for Labour) warn that: “Anything less than continued UK association with these programmes will be catastrophic for both British and European research.”

Of the first 40 EU-funded COVID-19 research projects (totalling €50 million), the authors explain, UK scientists have been partners in projects worth €18 million, in collaborations spanning more than a dozen countries. During the two most recently completed iterations of the Horizon project, since 2000, the EU has been the third largest funder of British research into infectious diseases, and this year, the European Commission has committed €14 billion to pandemic-recovery funding in the Horizon Europe research budget and the EU4Health programme.

The authors conclude: “As we weather the worst public-health crisis in living memory, now is the time for the United Kingdom to be leading and enhancing scientific collaborations with our European partners, not leaving them.”


Article and author details

  1. Correspondence: COVID-19 shows UK–EU collaborations are irreplaceable

Corresponding authors:

o    Benjamin Fernando

University of Oxford, Oxford, UK


DOI: 10.1038/d41586-020-02687-6

Online article:


Please note this press release refers to a Nature Correspondence piece, not a Nature research paper. Correspondence pieces are ‘letters to the Editor’: short comments on topical issues of public and political interest, anecdotal material, or readers’ reactions to informal material published in Nature.


Photo Credit: Dave Sansom