Despite warnings from leading scientists, the Government have stated that they are willing to walk away from Horizon Europe and establish an alternative fund. Discussions about access to Horizon Europe have been ongoing since Brexit, however recent developments surrounding the NI Protocol have soured UK-EU relations, potentially collapsing negotiations entirely.
A new Northern Ireland bill, expected to be announced this month, will provide greater clarity about the Government’s decision and ultimately the fate of the UK’s entry to Horizon Europe post-Brexit. In all likelihood, the contents of the bill will anger Brussels further and entrench their obstinance.
While scientists are said to be dismayed at recent developments, BEIS Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is reportedly keen to begin making preparations for a new British global research programme as an alternative to Horizon Europe. This would involve spending £6 billion over three years to make up for the shortfall in Horizon funding.
The impact of the political impasse is already being felt by British scientists involved in the Horizon Europe programme and have been told they cannot lead on any projects until the situation between the UK and the EU has been resolved.
Prof Paul Boyle, who leads on research and innovation for Universities UK, said “We believe we are close to the precipice, based on the information we have recently received from the UK government”.