The UK government is poised to launch formal dispute proceedings against the EU under the claim that Brussels has broken its post-Brexit trade deal
According to the UK government, the EU has excluded Britain from three international science projects – the Horizon Europe research funding, the nuclear watchdog Euratom as well as the Earths observation project Copernicus – a breach of the Brexit deal
The exclusion of the UK from three international science projects has prompted retaliation, as the United Kingdom is believed to be ready to trigger ‘formal consultations’ with the EU.
Formal consultations and ongoing Horizon disagreements
‘Formal consultations’ is a mechanism under the EU-UK Trade Cooperation Agreement (TCA) used to resolve disputes.
Being part of the TCA was set to allow the UK a part in the £80 billion Horizon Europe funding programme, however, with funding having been held back tensions between the UK Government and the EU have been on the rise.
According to the UK government, the EU has excluded Britain from its three international science projects – the Horizon Europe research funding, the nuclear watchdog Euratom as well as the Earths observation project Copernicus.
Bloomberg news explained that there is an expectation the consultation “will likely inflame tensions after the EU ramped up its own legal action against the UK in a separate dispute.”
The ongoing dispute is related to Boris Johnson and his decision to ignore parts of the Brexit deal in order to trade with Northern Ireland.
How will the UK protect its research and innovation sector?
UK-based researchers are allegedly heartbroken over the ongoing disputes with their research and ongoing projects being held, “hostage”.
Following the delays, over the last few months, the UK government began to put safeguards in place to protect its researchers from the country’s potential removal from Horizon Europe.
Minister for Europe, Graham Stuart, said it was “disappointing that the EU has not facilitated UK participation in the agreed scientific programmes, despite extensive UK engagement on the issue”.
Disappointing that the EU has not facilitated UK participation in the agreed scientific programmes,
“Now more than ever the UK and the EU should be working together to tackle our shared challenges from net zero to global health and energy security. We look forward to constructive engagement through the formal consultations.”
In their statement, the UK government has said it is “ready to work together with the European Commission to resolve this issue and looks forward to constructive engagement during consultations”.
Lack of UK funding for programmes
The UK had previously negotiated access to the science programme as part of the agreement in 2020. However, the EU has still not finalised UK access, amid an ongoing political dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
As a result, UK-based Horizon Europe grantees have been ineligible to receive any funding they win, although the government has promised to cover the costs and launch an alternative set of programmes in the UK.
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy said: “Both the EU and the UK need to show more flexibility, but the Conservatives’ reckless and law-breaking approach to the Protocol is helping to prevent Britain gaining membership of Europe’s £80 billion Horizon scheme that funds vital scientific innovation and research.
“Instead of continuing the pattern of starting rows with the EU to appeal to their Tory base, the next prime minister should sit down with all parties to ease the tensions and find agreement in the national interest. Through statecraft, diligence, and graft, Labour would make our relationship with the EU work by tearing down unnecessary trade barriers, supporting our world-leading services and scientists, and keeping Britain safe with a new UK-EU security pact.”