Newsletter 18 August 2022

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The UK has begun dispute resolution proceedings with the EU over membership of Horizon Europe, which the EU has been unreasonably delaying – see below in Key Points.

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The UK has begun dispute resolution proceedings with the EU over membership of Horizon Europe, which the EU has been unreasonably delaying – see below in Key Points.  As Professor Noel Malcolm has remarked in the Daily Telegraph, this rather makes a mockery of the EU’s lofty rhetoric of scientific and academic co-operation.

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Putting Politics before Principle

Elsewhere the UK, the Tory leadership contest is entering its final stages.  Prompted by the declaration of drought and limits on water use, the national conversation also swung towards the water system and the potential benefits of nationalisation.  As Robert Colville writes for CapX, however, much of the reporting relies on skewed perceptions, and glosses over the chronic underinvestment that dogged the nationalised water industry.

Readers might also have missed a rather embarrassing set of emails for the Scottish National Party.  A high-profile American economist, Mark Blyth, who supported independence and made statements in its favour later admitted in private that he was “struggling to find the positive case” for the Scottish economy.  Blyth also found the SNP dogmatic and difficult to work with in private – which no-one who has watched the Alex Salmond scandal will find remotely surprising.

Many Scottish voters, however, simply don’t believe the economic case against independence – reasoning that, if Scotland does cost so much to the rest of the UK, why doesn’t the UK want rid of it?  Such sentiments suggest that the case against Independence needs to be made positively – showing the Scots why their membership is valued by the England and the UK as a whole, and what can be achieved by both nations together rather than apart.

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Hope in the Union

Three more stories.  Firstly, the worrying trend towards so-called positive discrimination in public life has even tainted RAF recruitment and promotions.  Secondly, the government has begun moves (or may be forced to question) some of the more egregious abuses perpetrated by some corporations in the fields of wind, solar and biomass, and restoring some of the UK’s lost gas storage capacity.  And thirdly, confirming what we’ve long suspected, Derrick Berthelson analyses the Financial Timesdogmatic anti-Brexit bias.


Briefings contributor Catherine McBride has written an interest piece on the UK’s options in the event of future water shortages – see below.


The path of future rainfall will not be smooth, by Catherine McBride

UK rainfall is volatile and long-term water shortages are rare. But UK water companies and farmers dependent on water should be collecting the extra rainfall when it comes. Deeper reservoirs could help while a guaranteed minimum provision for their customers would force water companies to think about how much water they store.

“When considering irrigation channels, it is worth looking at UK rainfall rather than just English rainfall. Because while the Southeast has been parched this July, the Northwest has had normal rainfall, but the west coast of Scotland has been deluged. It would make a lot of sense to catch this water to sell to farmers or water companies in the southeast when required.”

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Challenges for the new Prime Minister, by Neil O’Brien

Immigration. But we should keep our promise to voters and reduce it. How hard will the new Prime Minister want to try?

“My own view is Britain should aim to be the grammar school of the world, maximising upsides and lowering downsides by admitting a very small number of highly skilled people.”

Key Points

The UK has initiated a formal consultation with the EU over membership of the EU’s science programmes – Horizon Europe and the associated Copernicus (earth observation) and Euratom (nuclear research).  The EU has delayed the UK’s accession, most likely as a tool to try and pressure the UK over Northern Ireland.  If the consultation phase ends without agreement, then Britain will take its concerns to international arbitration.

The UK case is that the EU has undertaken in the Trade and Co-Operation Agreement to grant the UK associate member status of Horizon, and has not done so.  The Treaty envisages that the UK and the EU shall agree which programmes the UK is to participate in (Preamble para 22 and TCA Part V).   A draft protocol to this effect was drawn up (envisaged by TCA Article 710) but the minutes from the joint committee on UK participation suggest that the EU has stonewalled by delaying formalisation process indefinitely.

Given that both sides undertook that the UK should participate, the EU’s refusal to allow the UK to do so is arguably a breach of its commitments.  It is noteworthy that Remainer media outlets cry foul about the UK supposedly breaching an international agreement and international obligations therewith, but say nothing about the EU’s own potential breaches of international law.

More widely, this exclusions is short-sighted from the EU’s perspective.  Universities, as supportive remarks from academics both sides of the Channel make clear, are keenly aware of this fact.  The UK’s universities rank highly internationally (despite a growing penchant for woke politics).  According to one survey, the UK has 6 universities in the world’s top 30, compared to none for the EU.  The UK’s long academic tradition, the lasting significance of English as a global language and its global links all make it a centre of scientific excellence.

Brexit removes none of these inherent advantages, and neither does exclusion from Horizon Europe.  Indeed, as we’ve noted before, the programme’s funding could as easily be made up from domestic sources.  The loss of European links is a shame, but can be made up for with other institutions, and ties do not depend solely on the Horion programme in any case.

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Briefings For Britain