UK Rejoins EU’s $100 Billion Horizon Europe Science Program After Brexit Standoff


After a period of diplomatic frostiness following Brexit, the United Kingdom is re-engaging in the European Union’s $100 billion Horizon Europe science-sharing program, kindling a softening of relations between the two geopolitical entities.

The news follows an intense series of negotiations and is hailed as a critical boon by the UK scientific community, becoming a cogent indication of the bilateral relationship moving beyond its divided past.

The UK will now be recognized as a “fully associated member” of the research collaboration body. This designation enables UK-based scientists to participate in competitive bids for Horizon funding, a prospect that starts immediately. Anticipating the future, they can also lead Horizon-backed science projects from 2024 onwards.

A developing bond between the EU and the UK is discernible on another significant front, as the UK is also returning to Copernicus, the EU space program’s Earth observation segment.

Remarks from European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, confirmed the new cooperative stride stating, “The EU and U.K. are key strategic partners and allies, and today’s agreement underscores that fact. We will continue to be at the lead in global science and research.”

The previous paralysis in UK’s participation in Horizon was a resulting aftershock of a disagreement concerning trade regulations for Northern Ireland, a region with a shared border with the EU through the Republic of Ireland.

Even though the issue was mitigated in February, the subsequent Horizon negotiations on the membership fee the UK would cover dragged on. The agreement finally came with assurance from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, guaranteeing a balance on British taxpayers’ contribution in the deal.

The annual cost for the UK to participate in both Horizon and Copernicus is nearly 2.6 billion Euros, or $2.8 billion. However, the UK is not required to pay for the duration it was barred from the science sharing program.

The tensions between the UK and the EU were heightened by the lingering Brexit negotiations, beginning with the UK’s decision to leave in 2016 and culminating formally in 2020. These were further exacerbated with Boris Johnson’s staunchly pro-Brexit stance as Prime Minister.

Upon Johnson’s departure from office under allegations of misconduct in 2022, Sunak’s administration has been steadily endeavoring to mend the strained British-European ties. However, trade disputes and persistent mistrust remain formidable obstacles.

The Horizon deal brought significant relief to the British scientific community, previously anxious that Brexit could impede international research collaboration. The UK’s opposition Labour Party voiced appreciation for the agreement while lamenting the past two years as missed opportunities in innovation.


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