UK to Re-Join EU’s Horizon Science Programme

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The UK is set to rejoin the EU’s Horizon science programme after two years of absence post-Brexit, Sky News has been told.

The final deal is set to be agreed within hours and could be announced on Thursday or at the weekend’s G20 summit by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The issue has been on the prime minister’s desk for weeks while he attempts to negotiate a higher sum for British scientists to ensure they catch up after the two-year absence.

There had been fears the deal between the UK and the EU may stall over the sums involved.

Sky News understands that Mr Sunak has authorised the deal in principle and is likely to speak to Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, to finalise it within hours.

Horizon is a collaboration involving Europe’s leading research institutes and technology companies which sees EU member states contribute funds that are then allocated to individuals or organisations on merit.

The UK was negotiating a deal to remain in the EU’s €95.5bn Horizon Europe funding programme, but talks stalled over Brexit-related disagreements such as Northern Ireland.

In the two years since the UK was kicked out of Horizon, the UK government has stepped in to match EU grant money lost.

However, hope was reignited following the successful negotiations over the Windsor Framework, after Ms von der Leyen said she looked forward to UK and EU researchers working together again.

“The moment it’s implemented I’m 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,” she said at the time.

The level of compensation owed to the UK over its absence from the scheme is, however, still thought to be an issue.

It is expected that there will be a conversation with the European Commission president before any announcement is made.

At prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, Mr Sunak told MPs his “priority and preference” was to associate with Horizon but “on terms that are right for both the British taxpayer and for British science and research”.

He said the government had been “extensively involved in discussions” with the EU and “I hope to be able to conclude those successfully”.

Whitehall sources said in July that a draft deal was with the prime minister – but Downing Street said a UK-based alternative known as Pioneer also remained an option because Mr Sunak was concerned about “value for money”.

James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said: “The science community in the UK will be relieved and encouraged by this outcome.

“The prime minister is to be congratulated. Making the UK an attractive place for science is very important for our prosperity.”

Greg Clark, the Tory chair of the Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, said: “If the news of the UK returning to Horizon Europe is true, it will be a welcome boost for both UK and EU science.

“UK science always brings a lot to international collaborations. Everyone gains from excellent UK researchers working with others to advance knowledge.”

Source : News. Sky