UK demands post-Brexit access to EU science programmes

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By Isabella Jewell  & AFP
A pro-Brexit supporter wears badges as he demonstrates outside Parliament in London, Oct. 28, 2019.
A pro-Brexit supporter wears badges as he demonstrates outside Parliament in London, Oct. 28, 2019.   -   Copyright  Credit: AP Photo   -  

The UK's Europe minister called on the European Union to reopen British access to EU scientific programmes on Monday.

London says that participation in Horizon Europe, the EU’s flagship funding programme, nuclear regulator Euratom and the Copernicus satellite monitoring group was outlined in the post-Brexit trade deal, but the UK has been excluded.

The UK government believes this delay is a breach of the post-Brexit deal, a claim refuted by the EU. 

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement provides neither for a specific obligation for the EU to associate the UK to Union programmes nor for a precise deadline to do so.
EU Commission Spokesperson

Minister for Europe Leo Docherty met with EU representatives at the Parliamentary Partnership Assembly, a forum for the UK and European parliaments to exchange views on partnership and monitor the implementation of the post-Brexit trade deal.

"We will all benefit from the UK's participation and it brings no conceivable disadvantage to the EU or its member states but the EU has politicised scientific cooperation by linking it with the Northern Ireland Protocol.

"Putting politics in the way of scientific collaboration constrains human potential and hurts everybody" Docherty said.

In mid-August, the UK triggered legal action against the EU over the issue, accusing it of freezing British institutions out of the scientific research programmes due to the row over Northern Ireland.

The current Brexit deal keeps Northern Ireland in the European Union’s single market and customs union to avoid the return of a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

At Monday's Parliamentary Partnership Assembly in London, European Commission Vice President, Maroš Šefčovič, said that the EU does "not want litigation". 

We want to solve this issue politically through negotiations because that's what friends, partners, allies and biggest trading partners should do. That's our approach.
Maroš Šefčovič
European Commission Vice President

Šefčovič added that the EU and UK could do more together, including research, but said a fundamental part of the mutually negotiated, agreed and ratified international agreements is not being respected.

However, Britain’s Conservative government has put pressure on Brussels to revise the protocol and is passing legislation which could undermine it, a move which threatens to worsen relations with the European Union.

"This is surely the moment to abandon recourse to unilateral action, such as the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, set to disapply core elements of the Protocol. 

"If this Bill were to become law, the UK government would put Northern Ireland's unique access to the EU market of 450 million consumers at risk" warned Šefčovič.

An EU Commission spokesperson told Euronews that agreeing to joint solutions under the Northern Ireland protocol would "bolster trust" and "help open doors" to the UK's association to Union programmes.