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The UK was set to take part in Horizon Europe – which gives British researchers access to prestigious EU grants to work on crucial projects – as negotiated in 2019 under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). But despite the agreement, the bloc told Britain it cannot take part until the Northern Ireland Protocol dispute is resolved.
This has left the British research community in a state of uncertainty as the EU has dragged them needlessly into the Brexit feud, with the delay rumbling on for more than 18 months.
As the impasse shows no signs of ending, the UK looks poised to ditch the programme altogether and opt for a new global plan which could still involve working with European partners, as well as look outside Europe too.
Drawn up by former Science Minister George Freeman, he told Express.co.uk the countries eager to get involved range from Switzerland to Germany.
But Emmanuel Macron, who according to Mr Freeman played a large role in dragging UK scientists into the Northern Ireland Protocol feud, will reportedly not get involved.Mr Freeman told Express.co.uk: “If the EU continue to play hardball it’s time for us to recommit the money we would have put into Horizon to launch a big bold Global Britain Science and Technology Programme for international collaborations beyond the EU.”
The UK had earmarked around £15billion for the project, but under Plan B, UK researchers have been promised that they will receive grants from the Government instead.
The backup plan is also set to see see the setting up of a “talent and research stabilisation fund”.
This will help to prop up the income of universities that would be especially hard hit by the loss of those European funds.
READ MORE: Energy: Putin’s plot backfires as UK gas prices PLUMMETBut as well as accounting for the lost opportunities, Mr Freeman said there is much to gain from his backup plan.
He told Express.co.uk: “We could galvanise exciting global collaborations for research and UK technology with partners from Europe and beyond around big issues like polar research, agritech, satellite retrieval, marine biotech, pandemic prevention and biosecurity. We could attract huge global investment into the UK.
“That’s the Plan B I have been preparing this year which is now ready to go.
“The Swiss, the Germans, the Italians, the Norwegians, although not the French, have all said to me that if you’re going to do a big international science programme, we would love to be a part of it.”
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Macron’s energy nightmare deepens as nuclear output plummets: ‘Prep… [REPORT] But Mr Freeman stressed that time is of the essence, and has urged the incoming Prime Minister to embrace the plan with open arms.
He said: “We need to move fast. Without a clear international framework UK science is falling behind which will hold back UK growth.
“The new Prime Minister needs to embrace the spirit of Churchill’s famous wartime policy instructions : “Action This Day”.
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