Bitter EU throws toys out pram over Article 16 – bloc ‘holds up’ UK place on £81bn scheme

Brexit: Expert discusses future of Galileo space project

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The UK is currently negotiating to become an associate member of Horizon Europe, one of the most ambitious science funding programmes in the world. But EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel told MEPs the UKs separate accession talks could become embroiled in the broader political issues surrounding the post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland.

The Protocol, part of the Brexit divorce deal agreed by the UK and Brussels, effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.

This means checks on goods being sent from Great Britain into the single market in some cases could result in prohibitions on certain products that do not comply with EU rules.

But following unionist anger over the Protocol at Stormont, Brexit minister Lord Frost put forward plans to renegotiate the Protocol, which he set out in a Command Paper this summer.

Tough negotiations are currently ongoing with the EU to find a solution with UK ministers threatening to trigger Article 16, a safeguard clause in the Brexit deal which allows either party to take unilateral action if there is an unexpected negative effect arising from the agreement.

UK ministers agreed on terms of association of the Horizon programme in June and are becoming frustrated over the long delay to the programme.

A UK Government source added: “This hold up from the EU has gone on for longer than expected, we need some clear answers.”

Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s Employment minister said the UK’s membership of Horizon was essential.

He stressed: “1,000s of Scottish researchers and innovators in limbo, worrying over the future of many of their programmes, teams, organisations, and even their careers.

“That might sound overly dramatic – but consider the amounts involved.

“Scottish organisations have won €711million of EU funding from Horizon 2020 since the current programme began in 2014, a higher proportion relative to population than any other part of the UK.

“That’s roughly 10 percent of all Scottish research spending in that time at universities alone – a sector supporting around 5,000 full-time jobs annually.

“Universities have benefited the most, but also NHS boards, research institutes, SMEs and others.

Ms Gabriel said the UK would be associated with the programme through a research cooperation protocol.

But she made clear the UK’s application would “take time” and have to be “fully evaluated.”

She stressed the European Commission were “completing internal procedures to be able to adopt the [research cooperation] protocol as soon as possible.”

Ms Gabriel also made clear: “Questions tied to the protocol on Northern Ireland are also being tackled.”

The European Commission has ongoing negotiations with 18 countries that have expressed their wish to join the £81billion programme.

Some 15 countries including the UK are already associated with Horizon Europe’s predecessor, Horizon 2020.

A European Commission spokesman said the Commission’s “internal procedures are ongoing” to the UK’s accession to the programme.

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