- UK to rejoin £85bn EU science scheme Horizon as PM allows deal to be finalised
- Britain has been out the group for two years since Brexit a
Britain is poised to rejoin the EU’s Horizon science programme after Rishi Sunak gave negotiators the green light to finalise a deal.
The UK has been absent from the bloc’s £85 billion research regime for two years post-Brexit, and there were fears that talks may be scuppered over tensions about the price of rejoining.
But an official announcement is expected as early as tomorrow after ‘significant’ progress in negotiations, according to one Government source. The issue is understood to have been sitting in Mr Sunak’s in-tray for weeks as he haggled for higher sums from the fund for British scientists to ensure they can catch up after the two-year absence.
It is understood some minor issues will still need to be ironed out.
Britain is poised to rejoin the EU’s Horizon science programme after Rishi Sunak (pictured with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in February) gave negotiators the green light to finalise a deal
At Prime Minister’s Questions today, Mr Sunak told MPs his ‘priority and preference’ was to associate with Horizon but ‘on terms that are right for both the British taxpayer and for British science and research’
At Prime Minister’s Questions today, Mr Sunak told MPs his ‘priority and preference’ was to associate with Horizon but ‘on terms that are right for both the British taxpayer and for British science and research’.
Hinting at a breakthrough, he said the Government had been ‘extensively involved in discussions’ with the EU and added: ‘I hope to be able to conclude those successfully.’
A deal will allow close ties between Europe’s top research hubs to resume after the UK was frozen out of the fund while Brexit tensions flared. News of a breakthrough was welcomed by scientists, who have warned that a lack of a deal has been damaging to the UK’s reputation in the life sciences field.
They have complained that being shut out of the scheme made it far harder to lead cross-European projects from Britain, risking ‘brain drain’ and scientists moving abroad. Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, at London’s Francis Crick Institute, welcomed the developments as ‘fantastic news’ and said he would ‘love’ for the deal to be officially confirmed.
He told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: ‘We’ve really been missing being able to work properly with other European scientists. Of course the funds would help UK science but it’s that interaction really that we’re missing so much.’
In a letter to The Times in July, Sir Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute and Nobel laureate, said membership of Horizon was ‘vital… to keep the UK at the forefront of world science’.
Cancer Research UK has been calling on ministers and the EU to clinch a deal, saying it is in the interests of people affected by the disease.
Horizon is the main cross-European research funding programme, offering scientists access to significant grants for research about issues such as climate change and cancer.