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UK Government slated on threat of withdrawal from EU science scheme

The possible withdrawal has been linked to the UK's row with the EU over the NI Protocol

THE UK Government has been slated over events leading to a formal dispute with the EU over involvement in its research and development funding scheme.

The talks were announced after Brussels refused to rubber stamp the UK’s involvement in EU science programmes, including the €95.5 billion Horizon Europe - which has sparked worries among universities and academics that the UK will ditch the scheme completely.

The UK Government's position has been slated by Mike Galsworthy, co-founder of Scientists for EU, who blamed the UK's possible withdrawal from the programme on Brexit.

Speaking with The National, he said: “If we were still in the EU, there would be no way anyone could jeopardise our place on the programme. That’s pretty much all you need to know. That alongside the fact that this government continues to dig itself into ever worse positions with our neighbours.”

The UK’s involvement in the Horizon Europe project has become linked with the ongoing row between the EU and the Government over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Crisis talks will be held in Brussels over the next month to try and find a solution, despite any agreement being unlikely.

If the talks don’t prove fruitful then the next step of the arbitration process would involve an independent panel which would have three months to decide on the matter.

The Government has signalled that, in a bid to give researchers certainty, they could ditch Horizon Europe as well as any arbitration process as early as next month.

In its place, the Government has suggested it could implement a domestic alternative, which critics say would not be able to replicate the scale of the Horizon Europe scheme.

If the UK does ditch the project, then it is unlikely that it will be able to rejoin until the setting of the EU’s next budget in 2028.

The SNP’s education spokesperson at Westminster, Carol Monaghan, described the situation as “another damaging consequence of the Tories' hard Brexit”.

She added: “Scientists, universities, and research institutions urgently need clarification over the future of their funding and their rich European collaborations, should the UK continue to go down this dark path of completely cutting off from the EU.

“Abandoning Horizon Europe would be disastrous for the scientists and world-leading universities and research centres in Scotland, and of course for the tens of thousands of Scots who rely on the sector for work.

“Scotland didn’t vote for science sector funding to be stripped back and devastated, nor did we vote to induce a brain-drain which would take away our brightest and best - yet that is the reality we face because of the Tories’ catastrophic Brexit."

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said: “This is typical of a Tory government whose reckless Brexit has already taken a wrecking ball to our economy and has fanned the flames of xenophobia.

“This latest move would have a devastating impact on Scotland's world-leading university research sector and the thousands of people it employs, undermining the international collaboration that is so central to science and the pursuit of knowledge.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: "The EU is in clear breach of our agreement, repeatedly seeking to politicise vital scientific cooperation by refusing to finalise access to these important programmes. We cannot allow this to continue.

"That is why the UK has now launched formal consultations and will do everything necessary to protect the scientific community."

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