UK to ditch £15billion EU science deal

UK to ditch £15billion EU science deal: Ministers prepare to walk away as Brussels is accused of freezing out British researchers to create leverage in Northern Ireland talks

  • UK could withdraw from Horizon Europe, Copernicus and Euratom programmes
  • Entry to the programmes have been stalled by Brussels compared to Norway
  • Lord Frost working with Kwasi Kwarteng to create British alternative called the ‘Discovery Fund’

A leaked paper has shown ministers could walk away from three major EU research programmes.

Britain could withdraw from Horizon Europe, Copernicus and Euratom, denying the EU up to £15billion in funding.

The Government is working on domestic alternatives should Britain have to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the next few weeks.

Entry to the programmes have been stalled by Brussels, in comparison to non-member states like Norway.

A leaked paper has shown ministers could walk away from three major EU research programmes

Britain could withdraw from Horizon Europe, Copernicus and Euratom, denying the EU up to £15 billion in funding

The leaked government document has revealed ministers think that the delay is a deliberate tactic by Brussels to create leverage in the talks over Northern Ireland, the Telegraph reported.   

The paper said departments have been advised to prepare ‘alternatives to each programme in case association should not prove possible to a satisfactory timeline’.

It added ‘programme benefits cannot be fully replicated in domestic alternatives’ and withdrawing ‘would impact the ambition to become a science superpower’. 

Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, has allegedly been working with Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, to create a British alternative to the Horizon Europe called ‘Discovery Fund’.

This week, European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic will travel to London to continue talks. 

On Friday he warned that triggering Article 16 ‘would have serious consequences’.

Downing Street has repeatedly rejected EU claims that the UK was about to trigger Article 16 imminently and said it preferred settling their differences through negotiation. 

The Government is working on domestic alternatives should Britain have to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the next few weeks

Entry to the programmes have been stalled by Brussels, in comparison to non-member states like Norway

However, the UK is prepared to use the mechanism if a solution cannot be reached.

After three weeks of intensive negotiations, talks have stalled, with the UK side saying the EU has not made enough concessions.

Sticking points include discussions over cutting the amount of customs checks, red tape around medicines and the movement of pets between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

A Government source said: ‘We’ve always said that we’ll use Article 16 if solutions can’t be found. But people need to understand that we’re taking these talks seriously and we mean it when we say that we want a negotiated outcome.’

The source said the EU’s proposals so far ‘don’t deliver what they say on the tin. The number of checks and processes would still be unacceptably high, contrary to what the Commission said when they first announced them’.

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