UK seeks Bigger Discount to Rejoin EU Science Programs, but Brussels Unimpressed

UK seeks Bigger Discount to Rejoin EU Science Programs, but Brussels Unimpressed
UK seeks Bigger Discount to Rejoin EU Science Programs, but Brussels Unimpressed / Politicshome

The UK has sought a larger discount to rejoin EU science programs, including the Horizon Europe and the Copernicus Earth observation satellite system. Negotiations had stalled due to the Brexit trade row in Northern Ireland, but talks have now restarted following the Windsor Framework deal.

The Horizon Europe funding initiative is a seven-year program that funds research and innovation projects in various scientific fields. The UK had been a part of this program before Brexit, but its membership had lapsed when the country left the European Union.

The European Commission confirmed that the UK would not have to pay backdated participation fees for the two years missed in the current seven-year Horizon Europe funding initiative. However, the UK government has argued that the post-Brexit discount should be greater than simply two years’ worth of annual contributions.

The UK government’s argument is that the positions of researchers and businesses have weakened compared to their European peers due to Brexit, and that a larger discount is needed to level the playing field. However, the EU has not accepted the suggestion of a further discount and has said that the UK would be treated in the same way as other third countries, according to the EU-U.K. Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

UK ministers are now threatening to abandon association with Horizon altogether and push ahead with a domestic “Plan B” drawn up last year. The UK’s proposed Plan B is a £14.6 billion investment into domestic science and research projects, aimed at reducing the country’s dependence on the EU for research funding.

The UK’s proposed Plan B has been met with mixed reactions from the scientific community. Some have welcomed the investment, arguing that it could boost the country’s domestic scientific research capabilities. Others have criticized the move, arguing that it could isolate the UK from the wider scientific community and hinder international collaboration.

Despite the row over cash contributions, both the UK and European science sectors feel optimistic about reaching a deal after two years of stagnation and despair. Talks are likely to continue for months, but both sides are eyeing a summer resolution to allow UK-based researchers to bid for the next round of the European Research Council (ERC) awards.

The ERC awards are highly prestigious and sought-after, with many scientists considering them the ultimate recognition of excellence in their fields. UK scientists have historically performed well in these awards, but their eligibility for future rounds has been uncertain due to the country’s exit from the EU.

In addition to the ERC awards, the Horizon Europe program provides funding for a wide range of scientific research projects, including those related to climate change, health, and energy. The Copernicus Earth observation satellite system is also a valuable tool for monitoring climate change and environmental issues.

The UK’s desire to rejoin these programs reflects its recognition of the importance of international scientific collaboration in addressing global challenges. However, the row over cash contributions highlights the tensions that continue to exist between the UK and EU following Brexit.

It remains to be seen whether the two sides can reach a compromise that satisfies both parties. However, with talks now underway and a summer resolution on the horizon, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about the future of UK-EU scientific collaboration.