20th June 2019

Sir Nicholas Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what effect the UK leaving the EU without a deal will have on funding of clinical drug trials; if he will make a statement.

Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Care: The United Kingdom and the European Union have a long record of jointly tackling global challenges, with strong existing links already in place between our research and innovation communities, and we want to continue this important collaboration in science, research and innovation.

The UK and the EU have agreed a flexible extension of the Article 50 period to 31 October 2019. During this extension period the UK will remain a member of the EU, with all the relevant rights and obligations. This means that the UK will continue to participate in Horizon 2020, the EU’s flagship research and innovation programme, on a Member State basis. Further, this extension period provides time for the Government to seek a deal which will ensure the smooth and orderly withdrawal from the EU. If ratified, the proposed Withdrawal Agreement would ensure that following exit the UK could continue to participate in EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 for the lifetime of projects. Further updates on Horizon 2020 planning will be provided in due course.

As a responsible Government, we are continuing to prepare for all scenarios. In the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal at the end of this extension period, the Government has confirmed that the funding commitments made under the guarantee and the extension still stand. Through these commitments, the Government will underwrite funding for all successful competitive eligible UK bids to Horizon 2020 that are submitted before the end of the Programme. This guarantee will apply for the lifetime of projects and will provide funding for UK participation in pioneering Horizon 2020 medical research projects can continue.

Aside from our preparations for leaving the EU, the Government has demonstrated its commitment to research and innovation, including clinical drug trials, by putting it at the heart of its Industrial Strategy, setting an ambition to increase UK total research and development expenditure to 2.4% of gross domestic product by 2027. As a first step towards that we have invested an extra £7 billion in research and development up to 2021/2022. The Government invests over £1 billion in health research through the National Institute for Health Research. This provides direct funding for clinical trials and also the skills, facilities and infrastructure to undertake clinical trials in the health and care service funded by public, charity and industry funders.