EU humiliated: Researchers refuse to leave UK despite threat to END their contracts

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

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The EU issued an ultimatum to the 143 UK-based scientists who were promised Starting, Consolidator and Advanced grants under the 2021 work programme for Horizon Europe. Horizon Europe is an £80billion research programme that allows scientists to access EU grants and collaborate with European researchers. While the UK had successfully negotiated Britain’s entry into the programme, disputes over the Brexit deal and Northern Ireland have resulted in the EU blocking UK universities from accessing this fund.

As a result, the European Research Council (ERC), which is the bloc’s main research funding agency, issued an ultimatum to the UK-based applicants who were selected for grants.

These applicants were told that those in the UK who were promised grants must move to the EU, or a Horizon-associated country, within two months or else be replaced by other applicants.

Experts have warned that such a mass exodus of British scientists to the EU would hurt the UK and scupper its ambitions of being a “science superpower”.

However, a spokesperson for the ERC told “There are 143 UK-based applicants concerned in total for Starting, Consolidator and Advanced grant calls.

“None of them have already transferred their planned projects to eligible host institutions.

“Two have confirmed that they would be staying in the UK, but 16 expressed an intention to move their grants.”

The spokesperson added that the EU has now decided to extend its deadline, that passed last Friday, to June 29.

She also noted that if the UK scientists do not move over to the EU the “grants are not terminated per see.

“What could be terminated is the preparations for grant agreements, not grants as these are not yet ongoing projects.”

But not all hope is lost for British scientists as Vivienne Stern, head of Universities UK, noted – Britain looks like it will opt for a “bigger, better” Plan B.

Ms Stern said: “We’re increasing of the view that Plan B is the most likely destination.

“I don’t see any cause to be optimistic that it’s going to unblock in the time we’ve got left.”

She added that there is now “quite detailed planning” for Horizon Europe’s alternative, which has reportedly intensified in recent weeks, with plans set to be made public in the coming weeks.

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Science Minister George Freeman also claims he has his own “bold Plan B” that will use the £15billion that the UK was set to invest in Horizon Europe, and use it on a new programme.

Mr Freeman has hinted that the plan will involve teaming up with science and innovation powerhouses like our Five Eyes (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US) partners, as well as countries like Japan.

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