Switzerland: Reporter discusses collapse of EU trade talks

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The two scientific powerhouses appear to be cosying up to strike an exciting deal after both nations were snubbed by the EU. The bloc banned Britain from joining Horizon Europe, its £80billion flagship research and development (R&D) programme over the Northern Ireland protocol. Switzerland too was told it cannot join the programme, which allows countries to access the bloc’s huge pool of funding and allows scientists to collaborate with other European partners, over a political feud.

But now in a major show of force, the two nations are teaming up to strike a deal of their own, despite both countries still stressing that they are determined to be associated with Horizon Europe.

Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation Guy Paremlin told Express.co.uk: “Switzerland’s association to Horizon Europe and related programmes and initiatives remains the Federal Council’s declared goal.

“We stand ready to swiftly start negotiations in this regard.

“Regardless of a possible association, Switzerland would like to strengthen its bilateral relations in research and innovation with key partners, such as the UK.

“We are working to further deepen and develop our excellent relations with the UK in these areas to allow for the use of synergies, strengthen the research and innovation landscape and ultimately address the societal challenges in Europe.”

This comes after Science Minister George Freeman visited Switzerland back in February to explore a strengthened Swiss-UK partnership.

Mr Freeman wrote on Twitter ahead of his visit: “To Switzerland this evening for a two-day trip to explore a UK/Swiss science and research collaboration.

“The UK and Switzerland are science powerhouses with huge, shared research interests.

“Between us, we have nine out of 10 of the top Universities in Europe.”

Mr Parmelin, who is also the former President of Switzerland, told Express.co.uk that Mr Freeman’s visit was an “excellent opportunity” to strike up a closer relationship between the two nations.

“It was an excellent opportunity to discuss various possibilities for intensifying cooperation in research and innovation and in this context, we agreed to work towards a Memorandum of Understanding as part of this strengthening process.”

And Switzerland appears to have much to offer Britain in this domain.

Mr Parmelin said: ”Switzerland is home to some of the world-leading research institutes.

“These host modern research infrastructures, some of which are unique in Europe. Swiss higher education institutions – the federal institutes of technology (ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne), the cantonal universities, the universities of applied sciences and the universities of teacher education – offer a wide range of study and research opportunities.

“They perform strongly in international rankings and make a considerable contribution to research and innovation. There are also around 30 research institutions of national importance, and these make a major contribution to generating scientific added value in all specialist areas and disciplines.”

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He added: “Switzerland is one of the most competitive countries in the world in research and innovation. It is among the countries with the highest spending on Research and Development in relation to the gross domestic product, with the private sector accounting for more than two-thirds of Swiss R&D expenditure.

“Its research and innovation landscape features top-notch universities, excellence centres in research as well as some of the most innovative companies and a vibrant start-up ecosystem. Its research institutions are highly internationalised and attract talent from all across the world.”

This also comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Swiss president Ignazio Cassis met at the end of April for talks as Britain looks to strike an “unprecedented” post-Brexit trade deal.

International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “As two services super-powers, we have a huge opportunity to negotiate a modern, ambitious, unprecedented deal.

“It will boost both our economies and show the world what is possible between two like-minded and innovative nations who are firmly within Europe but outside of the EU.”

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