Brexit: BBC host fumes at ‘ransom politics’
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When the UK negotiated the Trade and Co-operation Agreement with the EU following its departure from the bloc, it was arranged that it would take part in Horizon Europe. But amid a furious Brexit row that has caused both sides to renegotiate a deal, the bloc told Britain it cannot take part until the Northern Ireland Protocol dispute is resolved.
Now, tensions are reaching boiling point over the Northern Ireland Protocol bill, which would allow the UK to unilaterally override sections of the hated rules.
Maros Sefcovic has called this bill illegal, which could mean Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has little time left to salvage a deal.
If Ms Truss fails at this, the UK may not be allowed to rejoin Horizon, which Mr Freeman explained would be a “lose-lose” for the EU.
He told Express.co.uk: “Crucially, inside the Northern Ireland Protocol, there is a set of legal remedies. It is a bespoke standalone agreement.
“And there is absolutely no case or legal basis for the EU to use science funding and use our membership of Horizon…as a leverage tool in the Northern Ireland Protocol talks, which is what they have been doing.
“On Horizon, the EU’s clear intention is that pressure on Horizon…will lead us to change our negotiating stance om Horizon. Let me be very clear, it absolutely will not because they are not linked.
“They never were linked and there is no basis in law for any link between them.”
And he sent the EU a stark warning.
The Science Minister said: “They are in danger of the worst of all worlds, which is the UK doing what it needs to do for the integrity of the United Kingdom.
“And the EU kicking us out of European research programmes, and I will then launch Global Plan B. They [the EU] are looking down the barrel of the lose-lose.”
Mr Freeman’s “Plan B” is his alternative masterplan he has been preparing in case the Britain does get kicked out of Horizon permanently.
As well as giving the UK the opportunity to partner with countries that are ‘third Country Participants” across Europe, Mr Freeman is hoping to strike deals with science powerhouses across the globe, such as the US and Japan.
He has also promised successful researchers who were promised Horizon grants that the money they would otherwise have lost if the UK was kicked out of the programme, will still be provided by the UK’s backup funding “safety net”.
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And Mr Freeman has said he has “made a firm commitment to ringfence the £13billion Horizon funding for science research and innovation, so if it isn’t in Horizon, we have a major budget for a major global research program”.
But the Science Minister has still made clear that participating in Horizon is the preferred option.
He told Express.co.uk: “My message to the EU is, I am not involved in the Northern Ireland talks, I have no jurisdiction in the Northern Ireland talks. There will be no link.”
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