Britain was told it could take part in the UK’s £80billion Horizon Europe so its researchers could access EU grants and collaborate with European partners as part of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). But the EU then told Britain it cannot participate until it resolves the Northern Ireland Protocol with the bloc. Labour’s Shadow Science Minister Chi Onwurah told Express.co.uk that it is the Prime Minister’s approach to negotiations that has meant the dispute is dragging on.
Ms Onwurah told Express.co.uk: “It is not surprising that there is a lack of trust on the European Union side given that the Prime Minister is forever storming out of rooms and threatening them.
“We (Labour) have been clear that we would have a much more pragmatic, sensible and down to Earth approach to negotiating.
“We would not be in this position now because we would not have been shouting and storming.
“Boris Johnson said he got Brexit done and it is not surprising that the EU want everything to be sorted.
“I would like to see the Horizon accreditation as quickly as possible. That is part of getting Brexit done and the Government should get on and do it.”
The tension between the UK and EU has been soaring in recent weeks.
Last month, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss threatened to tear up the Protocol.
Her EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic responded that this would be “unacceptable”.
He said in statement: “It continues to be of serious concern that the UK government intends to embark on the path of unilateral action.”
Mr Sefcovic added: “We have made clear that there is still potential to be explored in our proposals. We are still awaiting the response from the UK side.”
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But the longer the feud persists, the deeper the uncertainty grows for UK researchers promised European grants.
Ms Onwurah said: “I am consistently mobbed..by researchers, particularly young, early career researchers, just desperate because of the impact that the lack of certainty and or the lack of money (research funding) is having on their careers.”
But it is not only younger researchers feeling the effects of the Brexit feud.
This week, Universities UK, a group representing 140 universities in the UK, wrote a letter to European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic urging him to resolve the Protocol row so Britain can access Horizon Europe.
The letter read: “Failure to secure UK association to Horizon Europe would be a lose-lose for health, wealth and wellbeing and would do a disservice to future generations in Europe and beyond.”
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Universities UK has also warned that the situation is “close to the precipice”.
Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group has warned that Horizon Europe participation is very close from permanently being “snatched away”.
He warned: “It increasingly feels as if we are right on the brink, with association to be snatched away before the summer.
“The fact that Horizon Europe seems to have become tied up in wider political debates is a matter of regret, but it doesn’t have to be this way.”
He added: “We all know there is a point at which the UK can no longer hold on and alternative arrangements will need to be put in place.
A UK Government Spokesperson said: “The UK Government has a responsibility to address the issues facing communities in Northern Ireland.
“We need a long term solution to protect the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, and restore political stability and preserve peace in Northern Ireland.
“Our preference remains for a negotiated solution, but the current situation means we cannot delay taking action.”