Boris rages at EU shooting itself in foot with outrageous £80bn Brexit punishment plot

SNP's Pete Wishart calls Brexit 'an unmitigated disaster'

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Boris Johnson’s official spokesman this morning warned the bloc it was in the EU’s own interests to accept Britain as a partner for the Horizon initiative. Under the trade deal signed last year, the UK would continue to be a contributor to the programme.

Britain is set to contribute £2.1billion annually to maintain access for British scientists to pan-European funding.

But over ten months after the EU trade deal came into effect, Brussels has so far failed to grant Britain access.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We’re ready to formalise our association on Horizon Europe but disappointingly there have been persistent delays from the EU despite them being obligated under the TCA to finalise our participation.

“It would benefit both the UK and the EU.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to work together on shared interests and challenges.

“In the meantime, we’re supporting the UK’s R&D sector and will continue to do so regardless.”

The Government believes the UK is being blocked from formalising its association with Horizon as punishment for a Brexit row over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Last month the EU’s research commissioner, Mariya Gabriel, said “transversal issues need to be tackled first”.

Lord Frost has warned the EU risks breaking international law if it does not grant access as it would be failing to honour the EU trade deal.

He said: “It would obviously be a breach of the treaty if the EU doesn’t deliver on this obligation.”

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Over the weekend it was reported the UK is now considering pulling out of the research programme altogether if it decides to go ahead with triggering Article 16 of the Protocol.

With the EU unlikely to change its position on the UK’s participation should the Government go ahead with ripping up rules outlined in the Brexit mechanism, officials are working on plans for domestic alternatives.

The move would be a serious blow for scientists and researchers.

Last week more than 1,000 universities across Europe wrote to the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, to plead her to grant the UK access to Horizon.

They fear further delay will “result in a major weakening of our collective research strength”.

The letter said: “Horizon Europe’s success will hinge on its commitment to excellence and global outlook.

“The only way to move forward from the Covid pandemic is as a global community working together to drive research and innovation through collaboration.”

Lord Frost will make a decision on whether to trigger Article 16 in the coming weeks.

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