Britain’s decision to rejoin the Horizon research programme could have further implications beyond scientific collaboration. Officials now believe that the improving relations between the UK and the European Union (EU) could potentially lead to negotiations for a new partnership with Frontex, the EU’s border force, to address the issue of small boat crossings.
In addition to the migration agreement, British negotiators are eyeing an animal and plant health deal that aims to reduce border checks. These negotiations followed the conclusion of talks on the EU’s £81 billion science programme. Chancellor Rishi Sunak expressed his optimism, calling it an “unambiguously hugely positive day” for the UK science and research community during a recent visit to Warwick University.
The deal was finalized in a phone call between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. It was made possible after the resolution of the UK and EU’s disagreement over the Northern Ireland Protocol earlier this year.
Under the agreement, the UK will receive a £688 million discount to compensate for the three years it was excluded from the scheme. Britain is expected to contribute approximately £2.2 billion to the world’s largest research programme, which involves around 40 countries. A “clawback mechanism” ensures that the government can receive a refund if it pays in more than 16% of what it receives. Conversely, if UK scientists earn 8% more than their contribution, the annual fee may increase.
President von der Leyen emphasized the importance of the partnership, stating, “The EU and UK are key strategic partners and allies, and today’s agreement proves that point. We will continue to be at the forefront of global science and research.”
However, British scientists and researchers may face restrictions when it comes to Horizon-funded projects involving sensitive technologies like microchips or quantum computers. France, in particular, is pushing for the EU to prioritize member states in such projects, aiming to reduce reliance on the rest of the world.