Brexit: Liz Truss can ‘finish Brexit’ says Marc Roche
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Britain was told it cannot participate in the £80billion Horizon Europe project until Brexit disputes were resolved. But now that Ms Truss appears to be edging closer to striking a deal, Britain may finally be allowed to re-join. The UK had planned to contribute £15billion over a seven-year period so that British scientists can access the EU’s huge pool of funds and collaborate with the bloc on important research projects.
But when a back-and-forth over fishing licenses and the Northern Ireland protocol sent UK-EU tensions soaring, the bloc told Britain it cannot participate until the disputes were settled.
This is despite Britain’s associated member status being a feature of the EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).
And up to 14 non-EU countries were also allowed to participate.
Now, the Foreign Secretary appears to be buttering up the bloc and could turn the tables on Horizon Europe.
When Ms Truss met EU negotiators last week, they were reportedly impressed.
Managing Director of Eurasia Group, Mujtaba Rahma, said: “For those who still care about UK/EU relations, the EU side admits to being ‘charmed’ by Liz Truss last week.
“She will now meet Maros Sefcovic in Brussels next Monday.
“Despite – or because of – the madness in Westminster, things are looking up for UK/EU.”
This signals quite the change of tone as seen in negotiations between the EU and her predecessor, Lord David Frost.
Lord Frost warned the EU when he was Brexit negotiator that triggering Article 16 was being “considered”.
Mr Sefcovic, European Vice Commissioner, warned Lord Frost that this would have “serious consequences”.
In fact, this would have seen Britain permanently excluded from Horizon Europe.
Mr Rahman said: “Truss has already markedly improved atmospherics. No small thing after the belligerence of David Frost.”
This comes as Britain signals that it is confident of striking a deal as it has promised to fund the first wave of eligible, successful applicants to Horizon Europe who are unable to sign grant agreements with the EU prior to formalisation
Delays were said to be “causing uncertainty to the research community”, Science Minister George Freeman wrote in a letter to successful Horizon Europe applicants.
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Mr Freeman added: “The guarantee is a short-term measure intended to cover the first wave of calls and to address the continued delays from the EU to formalise the UK’s association to Horizon Europe.
“The Government has been clear that the UK stands ready to formalise our association. UK and EU researchers and businesses have a long history of successful collaboration.
“The UK’s association to Horizon Europe is a win-win for both sides, allowing our researchers and innovators to jointly tackle the great challenges of the 21st century – such as climate change and global health.
But despite signalling that Horizon Europe was the best option for Britain, the Science Minister has also said he has a “Plan B”.
So far, 12 projects have been funded by a £17million investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
While this figure is dwarfed by the EU’s £80billion funding pool, scientists have said they were “relieved” by the news.
The investment will allow UK scientists to collaborate with partners in both the EU and the rest of the world, including Australia and the US.
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