Draft deal on UK rejoining EU’s Horizon science scheme drawn up, sources say
The price tag could still prove to be a sticking point.
Britain and the European Union are edging closer to a deal on the UK’s re-entry into the Horizon Europe research programme.
Sources said negotiators have produced a draft document following months of talks, with Rishi Sunak expected to consider it in the coming days.
However, the Prime Minister could still reject the proposals over the price-tag of rejoining the £85 billion scheme.
Mr Sunak will be meeting European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen in Lithuania next week, providing an opportunity for in-person talks on Horizon.
First reported by the Politico website, a Whitehall source confirmed to the PA news agency that a draft deal had been drawn up.
But they said: “The EU have moved a little on the money but not nearly as much as the PM wants.”
Mr Sunak and the European Commission chief will be in Vilnius for the Nato summit on Tuesday, where they could meet one-on-one on the sidelines.
The Government did not deny a draft deal had been written, but a spokesman said: “Talks are ongoing and therefore, we have not yet agreed a deal.”
The UK was frozen out of associate membership of Horizon in a tit-for-tat retaliation over post-Brexit trading rules for Northern Ireland.
Talks resumed after Mr Sunak and Ms von der Leyen signed the Windsor Framework in February, thawing relations following the hostilities under Boris Johnson’s leadership.
Greg Clark, the Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Committee chairman, said: “The reports that an agreement may soon be reached on the UK re-joining Horizon Europe are a welcome sign of progress. We look forward to examining any agreement that is reached.”
Scientists were also welcoming what would be a “major step forward”.
Professor Sarah Main, the executive director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said: “This is an encouraging development. If confirmed, this raises the promising prospect of a deal within days, which would be the best of news for UK science.
“I urge the Prime Minister and president of the European Commission to secure this agreement, enabling researchers to get on with the vital role they play in improving people’s lives and livelihoods.”
Horizon is a collaboration involving Europe’s leading research institutes and technology companies.
EU member states contribute funds, which are then allocated to individuals or organisations on merit.