Brexiteer warns EU bid to ‘bully’ UK will backfire as Britain prepares for legal trade row

Lord Frost gives update on UK’s participation in Horizon Europe

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Meanwhile, a prominent UK-based scientist has warned if the situation is not resolved, it will be to the detriment of both parties. The Government last week launched formal dispute proceedings against the European Union, claiming Brussels has breached the post-Brexit trade deal by blocking access to international science programmes, namely Horizon Europe, Earth observation satellite constellation Copernicus, and Euratom.

The move was sanctioned by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who is the UK’s Brexit negotiator, and who is also the frontrunner to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

David Jones, Deputy chairman of the European Research Group caucus of eurosceptic Tory MPs, told “Liz Truss is absolutely right to start proceedings against the EU over their failure to implement these provisions of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.”

Citing to the controversial mechanism for preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland, Mr Jones added: “The EU have been using Horizon and Euratom as wholly unjustified bargaining levers in an attempt to dissuade the UK from pursuing changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol.”

However, article 13 of the Protocol actually “contemplates such changes”, Mr Jones said, in reference to the Northern Ireland Bill being introduced by Ms Truss.

The legislation represents an attempt to “correct” the Protocol, which Unionist critics claim has resulted in a border down the Irish Sea, hence driving a wedge between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Mr Jones added: “It is quite wrong for the EU to try to prevent the UK from taking an entirely legitimate course by dragging their feet on implementing uncontentious parts of the Agreement.

“The EU’s attempt to bully us will only confirm people’s view that they did the right thing when they voted to leave in 2016.”

Will Whitehorn, the chairman of Seraphim Space Investment Trust PLC, who stressed he had not been following the latest developments closely, told “Space science is much more bound up with ESA, which is not part of the EU and the UK continues to be a member and the UK Space Agency gets its own budget separate to the rest of the science budget.

“So space is less affected, although Copernicus is an EU project.

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However, Mr Whitehorn, who is also Chancellor at Edinburgh Napier University, added: “One thing is certain: if both sides don’t get this issue resolved soon it will be a debacle for both the EU and the UK in overall science progress just when we all need it most.”

Mahesh Anand, a Professor of Planetary Science and Exploration with the Open University, told “I am not aware of anyone in the School of Physical Sciences at the OU who is directly affected by the ongoing impasse over UK’s association (or lack of it) with the EU Horizon programme.“

However, our future ability to bid into EU programs will severely be limited if an agreement is not reached relatively soon.

“There are many scientists elsewhere in the UK who recently won ERC grants but are now in limbo so I think it is best if they/their institutions are approached for specific comments.”

Confirming the move on Tuesday, Ms Truss said: “The EU is in clear breach of our agreement, repeatedly seeking to politicise vital scientific cooperation by refusing to finalise access to these important programmes.

“We cannot allow this to continue. That is why the UK has now launched formal consultations and will do everything necessary to protect the scientific community.”

Minister for Europe Graham Stuart added: “It is disappointing that the EU has not facilitated UK participation in the agreed scientific programmes, despite extensive UK engagement on the issue.

“Now more than ever the UK and the EU should be working together to tackle our shared challenges from net zero to global health and energy security.“

We look forward to constructive engagement through the formal consultations.”

Responding last week, one diplomat from a northern EU country told Politico it was “bonkers, to say the least,” to argue the EU had breached an international agreement, accusing the UK of failing to comply with the Protocol itself.

The diplomat said launching consultations “is not going to deliver a solution, that’s for sure,” warning it was “probably a necessary prelude to the UK moving towards their own program this autumn”.

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