Suggestions that Rishi Sunak might hold back on rejoining the Horizon Programme after securing a landmark Brexit deal have been described as “unspeakable idiotic” by campaigner and scientist Mike Galsworthy.
The prime minister is refusing to rush Britain back into the EU’s 95.5 billion euros research programme, the Financial Times reported on Friday.
Once the new Brexit trade deal between Britain and the EU has been implemented, the EU can work on Britain joining Horizon Europe again, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday.
But according to the reports, Sunak is not as eager as you’d expect.
On Monday, the science community rejoiced at the prospect of the UK being invited back into the science programme.
Asked whether the Windsor agreement would pave Britain’s way back in, Ms von der Leyen told a press conference: “Yes, this Windsor Framework is good news for scientists and researchers in the European Union and in the UK.
“Because, of course, the moment we have finished this agreement – so it’s an agreement in principle – the moment it’s implemented I am happy to start immediately right now the work on an association agreement, which is the precondition to join Horizon Europe.
“So good news for all those who are working in research and science.”
The president of the Royal Society, Sir Adrian Smith, called for swift association to Horizon and said delays have “damaged” science across Europe.
He said: “We welcome Ursula von der Leyen’s commitment to progressing association as soon as the Windsor Framework is implemented.
“It is more than two years since the Government agreed association to Horizon Europe, Euratom and Copernicus – two years of delays that have damaged science across Europe.
“These schemes support outstanding international collaboration, and the sooner we join them, the better for everyone.
“The Government has stated that the UK is more committed than ever to strong research collaboration with our European partners.
“In light of the recent return to the Treasury of a £1.6 billion underspend that was intended for association to Horizon Europe, it is reassuring that Treasury sources are now reported as saying that the money will be spent in subsequent financial years.”
The Government recently signalled the UK would be “ready to go it alone” as it acknowledged the science sector wanted clarity on the issue.
The new Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, Michelle Donelan, said earlier this month that she was prepared to snub Horizon and create an alternative alliance with the United States, Japan and Switzerland.
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