UK starts dispute procedure and demands exclusion from EU scientific research | Science

The UK starts a dispute with the EU, accusing it of violating the Brexit Treaty by freezing scientific research programs after the fight over Northern Ireland.

EU sources said the UK asked for “formal consultations” – the first step of the mechanism to resolve disputes over the trade and cooperation agreement.

The move by Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary and frontrunner of the Tory leaders, first reported by the Telegraph, comes after the two sides reached an impasse over the UK’s participation in the Horizon science programme, the Euroatom -nuclear treaty and space services.

British scientists and academic researchers withdrew 115 grants from the Horizon program in July due to the ongoing Brexit dispute over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Grants had been approved for UK applicants after the then Brexit minister, David Frost, successfully negotiated associate membership in the £80bn Horizon Europe programme, but most are now being cancelled. The UK had to pay a £15 billion membership fee over seven years to participate in the programme.

Asked about the move, a European Commission spokesperson said: “The committee takes note of the UK’s request for consultations and will act in accordance with the applicable rules, as set out in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.”

At a press conference on Tuesday, a committee spokesman said: “We continue to recognize the mutual benefit and cooperation in science, research and innovation, nuclear research and space. However, it is important to remember the political context.

“There are serious problems with the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The TCA does not provide a specific obligation for the EU to associate the UK with union programs at this time, nor a precise deadline to do so. We look forward to a quick solution.”

The first step in a dispute procedure is to start discussions through a partnership council. Failing this, it can go to an arbitration tribunal, which can impose remedies for non-compliance if either party is found to have violated the agreement.

At the time of the cancellation of the Horizon grants, a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the government has “guaranteed funding for eligible, successful Horizon Europe applicants who are expected to sign grant agreements by December 2022.” and they are unable to sign grant agreements with the EU”.

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