Northern Ireland deal appears to boost UK’s Horizon Europe hopes
1 Mar 2023
Prime minister Rishi Sunak’s achievement of an agreed new Northern Ireland protocol with his European Union counterparts looks likely to pave the way for the UK’s continued involvement in the Horizon Europe research programme.
Hopes that the country could once again apply for grants from Horizon’s £88 billion-plus funds and enjoy less restricted involvement in research collaborations were boosted when Sunak’s fellow negotiator, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, appeared to explicitly endorse this.
She said that after implementation of the so-called Windsor framework – which she defined as “good news for science and researchers” in the UK and EU – work could start on Britain’s formal re-entry into the funding system.
I’m happy to start immediately... work on an association agreement, which is the precondition to join Horizon Europe,” declared von der Leyen.
Throughout the preceding years, several Government figures including science minister George Freeman expressed their interest in continuing the close research collaboration.
Efforts to find other sources of partnership resulted in an agreement with non-EU member Switzerland but with little hope of replacing the scale provided by Horizon.
Continuing instransigence over the Northern Ireland protocol resulted in a parallel standoff over the UK’s application for associate status in order to maintain its Horizon channel.
Last week the Government was criticised for taking back some £1.6 million it had earmarked for the UK’s contribution to participation in Horizon Europe and the Euratom schemes.
The move was not formally announced and was included only within the Government’s substantial supply estimates for the financial year.