express– Horizon Europe is the EU’s signature funding initiative that pools in more than £80billion (€95billion) for research and innovation. And Mariya Gabriel, the European Union’s Commissioner for Innovation and Research, blocked Britain from joining the project until it resolves the deepening row over the Northern Ireland Protocol. But now, Britain has a “bold plan B”, according to George Freeman MP, UK Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation.
He wrote on Twitter: “If the EU decide Northern Ireland Protocol politics stops UK joining Horizon Europe, we have a bold Plan B!”
He was responding to British Science writer Ehsan Masood, who earlier posted: “This looks pretty big. Horizon Europe has started. How long will @beisgovuk and UK science agencies wait before they can start talks to join?
“Or go with Plan B – create a bespoke international collaboration fund?”
The UK does have a smaller existing fund for international collaboration on science and innovation.
The Fund for International Collaboration (FIC) is a £160million fund supporting international collaboration.
It boosts the UK’s ability to build new, and strengthen existing, partnerships with global research and innovation leaders – and has already supported more than 30 international collaborative programmes of research, innovation and infrastructure.
But Mr Freeman’s post has hinted this may be Brexit Britain’s master plan.
His comments came after Ms Gabriel warned that “transversal” political issues needed to be resolved before the EU could move forward with Britain in talks to join the project.
Ms Gabriel said: “I think that it is important on our side to confirm our opinion to advance on association, but only after the framework is agreed by both sides.”
After Britain withdrew from the bloc, agreements were made to protect Northern Ireland’s position in the EU’s single market without implementing a hard customs border.
Government officials have now threatened to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol and temporarily suspend parts of the deal.
In a speech on Tuesday, UK Brexit minister David Frost slammed the EU for raising the tension.
A Government Spokesperson said: “The UK stands ready to formalise our association to Horizon Europe at the earliest opportunity, but disappointingly there have been persistent delays from the EU.
“We have always been clear that our priority is to support the UK’s research and development sector and we will continue to do this in all future scenarios”.