independent.ie– Britain is working on plans to withdraw from three major European science programmes, that would see Brussels denied up to €17.5bn funding and UK scientists denied access to research prospects.
Amid deteriorating relations with Brussels, the UK government has commenced work on alternatives to be set in motion should the UK leave the Horizon Europe, Copernicus and Euratom programmes — the bloc’s €90bn flagship scientific, satellite, and nuclear undertakings, which the UK agreed to remain part of when it signed the Brexit trade deal last year.
This suggests that British ministers are actively drawing up measures to mitigate the retaliatory options that would remain open to the European Commission, should Britain trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the coming weeks.
The UK had promised to contribute £2.1bn annually to the seven-year Horizon programme in order to allow British scientists and researchers to participate in pan-European projects and access funding.
It had also agreed to maintain access to the Copernicus Earth observation programme, deemed vital to the UK space sector, while reaching a separate deal on continued involvement in the Euratom nuclear research programme.
However, its entry has been stalled by the EU, despite other non-member states such as Norway already receiving their formal association status, meaning British institutions are missing out on research and funding opportunities.
A leaked UK government paper has revealed that ministers believe the delay is a deliberate bid by Brussels to create leverage in the talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol.