Britain could deny EU of £15bn science deal if bloc retaliates to Article 16 measures

Lord Frost discusses the deadline for invoking Article 16

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Last December, the EU provisionally agreed to the UK’s participation in three new research programmes but amid tensions over the potential triggering of Article 16, which could see the EU retaliate against Brexit Britain, ministers are reportedly drawing up alternative domestic plans to the EU’s flagship programmes. In exchange for £2.1bn annually to the seven year Horizon Europe programme, British scientists would have access to pan-European projects and funding.

Britain would also have access to the Copernicus Earth satellite observation programme, and the Euratom nuclear research programme.

The EU has stated that final approval into the research programmes is directly tied to the outcome of negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

A senior Government source told the Telegraph the UK was “looking at alternatives” in case the EU decides to block access to the research programme.

The source said: “Blocking the UK from joining Horizon is in no one’s interest – we can’t participate and they lose out our financial contribution.

“We’re having to look at alternatives in case the EU does block our access, which would be a breach of what we agreed less than a year ago.”

The comments come just days after European researchers urged EU commission president, Ursula Von der Leyen, to “immediately” accept the UK into the Horizon programme.

In a joint statement, researchers from over 1,000 universities claimed the EU was “fast approaching a crunch point.”

They said: “With the first Horizon Europe grant agreements approaching and new calls soon to be launched, UK association must be finalised without further delay.

“Further delays or even non-association would result in a missed opportunity and a major weakening of our collective research strength and competitiveness.

“The absence of a clear timeline for finalising UK association is now causing increasing concern and uncertainty which risks endangering current and future plans for collaboration.

“It also sends unhelpful signals to other third countries wishing to associate.”

Last week, Lord Frost claimed the Commission risks being in breach of its obligations under the post–Brexit trade agreement should it continue to shut out UK organisations from Horizon Europe.

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He said: “Perhaps there will come a point where the value-for-money case [for joining Horizon Europe] looks less compelling than it did at the start of the year.

“We’re not at that point yet, and not close to it, but it could happen if there are endless delays.”

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