British scientists being ‘frozen out’ of EU research due to NI row, claims MP

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UK scientists are being “frozen out” of the £80bn EU research programme Horizon Europe because of the ongoing dispute over the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol, a House of Lords committee has claimed.

Participation in the science research programme is being hampered by the ongoing dispute, the European scrutiny committee chair, Sir Bill Cash, said.

UK scientists, who previously led European research consortiums, campaigned hard to have a seat in the Horizon Europe programme and last autumn came close to being left high and dry in a dispute over the funding mechanism for future participation in the £80bn programme.

But now it has emerged that while a deal to include them was struck in the wider trade and cooperation deal in December, associate membership of Horizon Europe has still not been ratified.

“It’s been the best part of a year and British research institutions remain frozen out of key projects and funding despite agreement on participation,” said Cash, a veteran Eurosceptic. “With each passing day the opportunities are missed, British institutions are left high and dry while science marches on without them and the returns on our financial contribution edge lower.

“This needs to be addressed swiftly, so we’re calling on the government to lay out the steps it is taking to ensure UK participation is formalised.”

The committee’s Brexit Divorce Bill report claimed the UK is effectively being penalised because of the row over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Other countries outside the EU including Norway were given their formal association status in September but the commission has hinted that UK ratification is being delayed until the wider protocol dispute is over.

“It appears that the delays on the EU side are not merely procedural, but also linked to the on-going political disagreements between the EU and the government over the Northern Ireland protocol,” said the committee.

The European Commission has insisted that the UK is being treated like a full associate member of Horizon, but the UK is in effect being locked out because funding for UK participants “can only be signed once the association has come into force”, it said.

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