UK prepared to reject EU’s £88.6bn science settlement if Brexit wrangling can’t be resolved

The minister of the government’s newly created science and technology department has indicated that the UK is “ready to go it alone” if the EU does not agree to Britain’s post-Brexit membership terms.

The new secretary of the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, Michelle Donelan, said she is ready to reject the EU’s flagship €100 billion research program and form an alliance with the United States, Japan and Switzerland.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Ms Donelan acknowledged that the science sector was keen to learn more about the UK’s association with the EU’s Horizon programme, but if the partnership cannot come to fruition, she said: “We are more than ready to go it alone “. .

File photo dated 19/05/08 of a woman looking through a microscope

The Royal Society said Ms Donelan’s ‘first job’ as science secretary ‘should be to secure association with Horizon Europe and other EU science programmes’ (David Davies/PA)

The government’s Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, George Freeman, previously accused the European Commission of refusing to enter membership talks because Brussels blocked Britain’s requests over the row over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Eight months later and with progress still stalled, Ms Donelan said she “would not stand idly by while our investigators stand on the sidelines”.

“If we cannot associate, we are more than ready to go it alone with our own globally focused alternative, partnering with scientific powerhouses such as the US, Switzerland and Japan to establish international scientific collaborations,” she wrote in the Telegraph.

“The time of waiting is coming to an end soon and I will not shy away from striking alone.”

Michelle Donelan arrives in Downing Street, London, for a cabinet meeting on January 31, 2023

Michelle Donelan’s first policy announcement as science secretary was her signal that the UK was willing not to cooperate with the EU’s flagship research program (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

It comes amid mounting speculation that a deal is imminent to cut red tape on trade between Britain and Northern Ireland.

On Friday, the government and the EU reiterated their commitment to find “joint solutions” to disagreements surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was agreed in 2019 as a way to unravel the deadlock around securing a Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Ms Donelan’s ‘ready to go it alone’ announcement is the first policy to emerge from the new science department set up by the prime minister earlier this week during a cabinet reshuffle.

Many British scientists welcomed the new department after calling for it for several years, saying the announcement put science at the heart of government.

However, the president of the Royal Society, Sir Adrian Smith, reacted to the news by saying that Ms Donelan’s “first task” as science secretary “should be to link up with Horizon Europe and other EU science programmes”.

“These programs support excellent international cooperation and without being part of them we undermine the Prime Minister’s ambition that the UK should be at the forefront of science and technology worldwide,” he said.

Leave a Comment