The French President and the European Commission President both reportedly had big roles to play in the EU’s decision to ban Britain from taking part in Horizon Europe, Euratom and Copernicus. It had been agreed under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) that the UK would take part in these huge science programmes, which it was set to contribute billions towards.
But the bloc told Britain it cannot take part in the programmes until the Northern Ireland dispute gets smoothed over, despite this having nothing to do with these science projects.
Now, the UK is taking the EU to court and is launching “formal proceedings” for – in Foreign Secretary Liz Truss’ view – violating the TCA.
And former Science Minister George Freeman, who had been drafting a bold “Plan B” to prepare for the event that the UK was not let back into the £80billion Horizon programme, appears to agree.
He told Express.co.uk: “Boris Johnson specifically negotiated our membership of Horizon, Copernicus and Euratom as part of our Brexit deal in 2019. It is outrageous that nearly three years on we are still blocked by the EU.
“After exhaustive negotiations in the last year as Science Minister it is very clear to me – and research leaders across Europe – that UK membership is hugely valued by scientists, that they want the UK in and regret the weaponising of science for political ends which have come from Emmanuel Macron, Ursula von der Leyen and one or two others at the top of the Commission to block the UK’s membership of Horizon, Copernicus and Euratom in order to put pressure on the Northern Ireland Protocol talks.
“Everyone knew that Northern Ireland was going to be tricky and that is why there was a protocol.
“I think a British court would say that we have behaved perfectly reasonably.”
Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith believes that the UK has a “strong case” against the bloc and is fully supportive of the Government taking action.
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“In all logic, trying to exclude British scientists from the Horizon programme will damage Europe enormously and is a self-defeating objective.
Sir Iain added: “They fuss when anything happens to them but they are very quick to take the law into their own hand.
“The truth is, the Government has a very strong case.”