UK government responds to post-Brexit concerns and of course it's all the fault of those pesky EU negotiators

'Incalculable cost' of non-participation in Horizon programme 'continues to rise'

The UK's European Scrutiny Committee has published the government's response to concerns over the Brexit divorce bill and the impact on the UK's participation in EU programmes.

The original report turned up in October 2021 and highlighted the costs incurred as Brexit negotiations went on. The UK was given the nod for participation in the likes of Horizon (the EU's big research fund) and Copernicus (the EU's Earth Observation programme), however approval allowing UK entities to actually bid is still lacking.

The maximum financial endowment of Horizon Europe is €95.5bn. Copernicus was reported as being €5.4bn in the original report. The majority of the UK's contribution to these and other programmes would normally have been expected to flow back into Blighty's coffers. But these are not normal times.

One stumbling block was the negotiations over the Northern Ireland protocol. Until resolved, funding streams to British institutions would remain closed despite a potential backdating of UK contributions to the start of 2021.

The UK government has now responded to the report, and agreed with many of its recommendations. And yet the delays seem set to continue.

The response is big on rhetoric and promises, with assurances that lawmakers will be kept up to date on the size of the UK's liabilities and costs of settlements, but still lays the blame on the doorstep of the European Union, describing itself as "disappointed there have been persistent delays" from the bloc.

Still, funding would be guaranteed where bids for Horizon Europe funds were successful but grant agreements could not be signed, it added.

And the Northern Ireland negotiations? The report asked for clarification on the status and an estimate on when they might conclude. Whitehall responded that they were "ongoing and at an advanced stage."

Not ideal and, frankly, things don't seem to have moved forward an awful lot since October last year.

Sir Bill Cash, European Scrutiny Committee chairman, welcomed the government's agreement with the recommendations, but was less than impressed with progress. "The EU's obstruction of the UK's association with Horizon remains," he said.

"This was agreed to by both parties in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and is still to be implemented more than a year after its introduction. Meanwhile, the incalculable cost of non-participation continues to rise.

"It has been three months since we first reported the issue and we ask the government to lay out concrete steps it will take to ensure the UK's participation in Horizon as a matter of urgency." ®

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