UK (Parliament Politic Magazine) – The United Kingdom is on the verge of finalizing a deal to rejoin the European Union’s esteemed science research program, Horizon Europe, which boasts a staggering budget of £85 billion.
According to reliable diplomatic sources, negotiations to secure associate membership are set to persist throughout the weekend, with both parties inching closer to a mutually beneficial agreement. These discussions have spanned an arduous three-month period, primarily focusing on the financial implications of the UK’s re-entry.
In 2020, the UK found itself excluded from the Horizon program due to a retaliatory measure stemming from the failure to implement the trade arrangements outlined in the Northern Ireland protocol within the original Brexit withdrawal agreement.
Associate Membership For the UK Has Reopened
However, the opportunity for associate membership was reinstated with the establishment of the replacement Windsor framework in March. Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission chief, expressed optimism that a deal could be reached promptly.
The European Union has already confirmed that the United Kingdom will not be required to make payments for the years 2021 and 2022, as it was not an associate member during that period. Nevertheless, sources indicate that the UK has been advocating for more substantial reductions in its overall contribution to the fund. According to one source, discussions have regressed in recent weeks.
UK Contributions To 2020 Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA)
Under the 2020 Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), the United Kingdom’s contributions were supposed to be determined by the success rates of research funds awarded to UK projects in 2019.
However, the UK has argued that contributions should be based on the success rates in 2023, which would be significantly lower due to the reduced number of applications caused by the uncertainty surrounding membership.
According to data from the European Commission, there has been a drastic decline in the amount of funding awarded to British science programs since 2019. In that year, the UK received €959.3m through 1,364 grants, whereas in 2023, only €22.18m was granted through 192 grants.
The Deal will Be Celebrated Among The Scientists In The Europe and UK
There were discussions regarding the threshold for under- or over-achievement that should prompt a correction, as well as the resolution process.
Sir Paul Nurse, the director of the prestigious Francis Crick Institute in London, expressed his belief that a deal would be warmly received by scientists in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe.
He urged the prime minister to promptly finalize the agreement, emphasizing the significance of maintaining connections with European scientists and initiatives. These connections are vital to our research endeavors and should be nurtured for the long term.
Horizon is a groundbreaking collaboration that brings together Europe’s foremost research institutes and technology companies. Through this initiative, EU member states generously contribute funds, which are subsequently allocated to deserving individuals or organizations based on their merit and potential. This visionary project aims to foster innovation, drive scientific advancements, and propel technological breakthroughs across various fields.
Mr. Sunak To Meet European Union Chief Ursula von der Leyen in Lithuania
Britain and the European Union are moving closer to reaching an agreement regarding the UK’s re-entry into the Horizon Europe research program. After months of negotiations, sources have revealed that negotiators have now prepared a draft document, which is expected to be reviewed by Rishi Sunak in the upcoming days.
Nevertheless, there remains a possibility that the Prime Minister may reject the proposals due to concerns regarding the cost associated with rejoining the £85 billion scheme. Mr. Sunak is scheduled to meet with European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen in Lithuania next week, providing an excellent opportunity for face-to-face discussions on Horizon.
This news was initially reported by the Politico website, and a reliable source from Whitehall has confirmed to the PA news agency that a preliminary agreement has been drafted. However, the source also mentioned that the EU’s concessions on financial matters have fallen short of the Prime Minister’s expectations.
Despite this, both Mr. Sunak and the European Commission chief will be present in Vilnius for the Nato summit on Tuesday, which presents a potential chance for a one-on-one meeting on the sidelines. While the Government did not explicitly deny the existence of a draft deal, a spokesperson emphasized that negotiations are still ongoing, and therefore, a final agreement has not yet been reached.