Officials from the UK government said that talks on Britain’s rejoining of Horizon, the flagship scientific research program of the EU are “coming to an end” and going “constructivly”.
British ministers hope to reach a agreement on Horizon by the end of this month. An official involved in the discussions said “quite a bit has been done” to resolve differences over how much the UK will pay for the program.
Another British official said, “It is definitely getting to a point where it will be resolved.” Rishi Sunak will be able to discuss this issue with Ursula von der Leyen (President of the European Commission) on the sidelines of the Nato summit next week in Lithuania.
Scientists and universities in Britain have welcomed the positive signals from the UK Government, as they see the €95,5bn Horizon programme for scientific collaboration as crucial to the competitiveness of the country.
British researchers are excluded from the competition since 2020, after their participation has been blocked by the Commission until a post Brexit row about Northern Ireland’s trade arrangements is resolved.
the dispute is now settled. The UK Treasury has been having tough discussions about the financial terms for “associate member” of Horizon. Britain has missed out on two years from a program that runs between 2021 and 2027.
Downing Street denied that a draft agreement with Brussels was reached and said Sunak would review the details at the weekend. The UK government said that talks are still ongoing, and as a result we haven’t yet reached a deal.
Politico reported that two British officials said the deal could be closed with von der Leyen during the Nato Summit, and added that the UK wanted to join Horizon and the EU’s Copernicus Earth observation programme, but not the Euratom nuclear scheme.
A British official claimed that staying out of Euratom is “sensible”, as it does not provide good value for money.
A senior EU official stated that Brussels did not want to separate Euratom and wanted the UK to be a part of all three schemes, as envisaged by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
A second EU official stated that the talk of a draft agreement was viewed as “UK Spin” and was designed to pressure von der Leyen into intervening.
The commission stated: “We do not have any comments to make.” We are currently in talks with the UK about its participation in EU programs, as envisaged by the [Trade and Cooperation Agreement].
Two people who are familiar with the negotiations said that the “correction mechanisms” in the Horizon talks have been centered on determining what happens when the UK gets less value out of the program than it pays for, or if there is a significant difference in the UK’s contributions.
Sir Paul Nurse of the Francis Crick Institute who conducted an independent review on science and innovation in the UK for the government, urging the UK to rejoin Horizon, stated that any agreement would be welcomed by scientists across Europe and the UK.
He added, “I urge the Prime Minister to finalise this agreement as soon as possible.”
Jamie Arrowsmith, Director of Universities UK International (a representative body), said that a Horizon deal would “provide much needed certainty for researchers”.