The UK was excluded from the EU’s £80billion research and innovation over Brexit disputes. Lord David Frost was stuck in a back-and-forth with the bloc’s lead negotiators overfishing licenses and the Northern Ireland protocol. And with no resolution, this was keeping Britain out of the project. The UK was supposed to contribute £15 over seven years so researchers and institutions could access the EU’s huge pool of funds.
But since Lord Frost resigned, the science community has likely been hoping that Ms Truss, who took over as chief Brexit negotiator, can put the disputes to bed.
If Ms Truss is able to strike a deal, this would finally put an end to the delay in Britain’s involvement in the project.
It might now be more likely than when Lord Frost was in charge, according to Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform thinktank.
He said: “With David Frost’s departure, there’s at least a chance of a bit of a reset in the EU-UK relationship because people in Brussels reckoned so long as he was there they couldn’t have a much better relationship,”
Mr Grant claimed that the Foreign Secretary would “try to get a deal fairly soon” on the Northern Ireland protocol.
And he suggested that the UK has been softening its negotiating stance.
Mr Grant said: “Even before David Frost resigned there were signs of the British softening their position by saying that they didn’t insist that the European Court of Justice be taken out of the equation altogether in the protocol.
He added: “If I’m right that the British want to reach a deal with Northern Ireland, that holds up hope for Horizon.”
This comes after tensions with Lord Frost as negotiator were beginning to boil.
The former Brexit minister warned the EU that triggering Article 16 was very much being considered.
European Vice Commissioner Maros Sefcovic responded by saying that this would have “serious consequences”.
In fact, if Article 16 gets triggered, then Britain would be excluded from Horizon Europe indefinitely.
This would be seriously damaging for British research and innovation, much of the UK’s science community has argued.
Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, told BBC News that exclusion from Horizon Europe would be a “significant blow” in efforts to combat cancer.
She added: “It will also put at serious risk the UK’s position of being at the forefront in the global effort in improving the prevention, treatment and diagnosis of cancer.
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“The Government must strike a deal urgently for continued membership of Horizon Europe or the UK will weaken its position to collaborate and use science to address the global challenges we face.”
But while some are hopeful that Ms Truss will be able to ease the tensions with the EU and quickly strike a deal, others are worried that time might run out.
Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International, said: “We don’t feel on the UK side that time is on our side.
She was referring to the potential reallocation of UK funding that was intended for Horizon Europe.
She added: “If we’re being held up because there is a wider disagreement about things that have nothing to do with research, who knows how long that might go on?
“The consensus is we want association if we can get it. But when you start to talk to people about what would happen if we’re still in this position in the spring, in the summer, you get a range of answers.”