Favourite to be next PM accused of wooing Tory members by ‘starting rows’ with Brussels
The foreign secretary has launched dispute proceedings over the exclusion from the schemes, which Brussels has linked to UK threats to tear up the Northern Ireland protocol.
A letter has been delivered to the European Commission by the UK’s ambassador to the EU, in a move that could lead to direct legal action if the dispute is not resolved.
The row centres on access to the £80bn Horizon Europe scheme, as well as the Copernicus climate change initiative and the Euratom nuclear research programme.
Ms 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.”
“The Conservatives’ reckless and law-breaking approach to the protocol is helping to prevent Britain gaining membership of Europe’s Horizon scheme,” said David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary.
“Instead of continuing the pattern of starting rows with the EU to appeal to their Tory base, the next prime minister should sit down with all parties to ease the tensions and find agreement in the national interest.”
And Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrats’ foreign affairs spokesperson, said: “This latest escalation offers a glimpse into life under a future Truss administration, where a trade war with our largest trading partner is sadly a serious prospect.
“Deciding to put Conservative Party dogma ahead of what’s in the nation’s interest is a terrible decision at the best of times – to do so in the midst of this cost of living crisis would be unforgivable.”
The Christmas 2020 Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) was meant to rescue participation in the schemes, even as the UK pulled out of other joint programmes.
But the EU slammed the brakes on the talks in protest at what it considers to be the UK’s intention to breach international law by overriding the Brexit deal for Northern Ireland. It has begun infringement proceedings and reignited a case first filed in March 2021 over the UK’s failure to implement promised Irish Sea border checks.
Despairing scientists and researchers have pleaded with both sides not to allow science to fall victim to “unrelated political disputes”, warning projects are already biting the dust.
The UK had been poised to launch a homegrown alternative to Horizon – viewed as inferior by scientists – but pulled back last month.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said the start of “formal consultations”, a mechanism in the TCA, would put pressure on the EU “to abide by their obligations”.