UK science suffers as lawmakers continue to dither over Brexit negotiations

Horizons Europe carrot dangled amid protocol wrangling

A report from the UK House of Commons' European Scrutiny Committee has blamed delays in Brussels for choking off revenue streams to British institutions and businesses.

The UK departed the European Union following a 2016 referendum. One of the results was that UK businesses were no longer able to tender for lucrative contracts within the bloc.

The Brexit Divorce Bill uncomfortably laid out the facts back in 2018. The satellite navigation system Galileo was one victim despite substantial involvement from the UK in its development. Another was the Copernicus Earth monitoring programme; the UK was infamously snubbed when the European Space Agency (ESA) handed out six juicy contracts to institutions from the Continent.

While ESA is supposedly above all the Brexit squabbles, the move left the UK Space Agency struggling to conceal its upset and it told The Register it was "disappointed overall."

The good news is that in December the EU provisionally agreed to let the UK take part in its research programmes. The previous round of Copernicus and similar work might have been dubbed "lost opportunities" in the European Scrutiny Committee report, but the Horizon Europe fund (aimed at fostering research and innovation) and future Copernicus work could be in the offing.

According to the report, the gross UK payments for Horizon Europe alone would come to £15bn for the period 2021 to 2027, "provided the UK formally associates with the programme with retroactive effect to the start of 2021."

The maximum financial endowment of Horizon Europe is €95.5bn, dwarfing the €5.4bn of Copernicus.

Normally, the UK would expect at least a good portion of that funding to flow back in the form of grants and its operational contribution in a given year would depend on EU spending for programmes in which the UK participates. "Conceptually," the report explained, "this is not dissimilar to how the UK's EU budget contribution and rebate operated while it was an EU member state."

However, despite being given the nod for participation, the requirements to allow UK entities to bid have yet to be approved.

And that approval? It's tied to the outcome of the Northern Ireland protocol negotiations, which kicked off earlier this month.

"As a result," noted the committee, "new funding streams remain closed to British institutions and businesses for the time being, including those that want to tender for lucrative procurement contracts to provide technical and scientific equipment."

Should the UK's financial contribution end up being back-dated to the start of 2021, as agreed, then 10 months will have passed without UK businesses and institutions having access.

"With each passing day the opportunities are missed," said European Scrutiny Committee chairman Sir Bill Cash. "British institutions are left high and dry while science marches on without them and the returns on our financial contribution edge lower."

Negotiating a guest pass to the club you angrily stormed out of is always a tricky matter. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021