Von Der Leyen's 'mask has slipped' says host

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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has been told to “immediately” accept the UK into the €95.5billion (£80billion) project. It comes from a joint statement from over 1,000 universities, 56 academies of science and thousands of the EU’s most distinguished researchers. They have warned of a “major weakening” of Europe’s “research strength and competitiveness” if the bloc follows through with threats.

The statement reads: “We are rapidly approaching a crunch point.

“With the first Horizon Europe grant agreements approaching and new calls soon to be launched, UK association must be finalised without further delay.

“Further delays or even non-association would result in a missed opportunity and a major weakening of our collective research strength and competitiveness.

“The absence of a clear timeline for finalising UK association is now causing increasing concern and uncertainty which risks endangering current and future plans for collaboration.

“It also sends unhelpful signals to other third countries wishing to associate.”

The EU provisionally agreed to the UK participating in its new research programmes last December.

The promise included the Horizon Europe research fund and the Copernicus Earth observation programme, in return for an estimated £2.1billion contribution to the programme’s funding.

But the EU has thrown a tantrum, stating final approval is tied to the outcome of negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mariya Gabriel, the European Union’s Commissioner for Innovation and Research, said last month: “Association is a thematic subject, and I am confident that we are ready to tackle it as soon as possible, but transversal issues need to be tackled first.”

She added the UK’s membership will only be resolved once the diplomatic crisis is averted, saying: “I think that it is important on our side to confirm our opinion to advance on the association, but only after the framework is agreed by both sides.”

Professor Kurt Deketelaere, secretary-general of The League of European Research Universities, said: “A quick association of the UK to Horizon Europe is vital to continue these close collaborations and to tackle the many societal challenges that lay in front of us.

“A further delay simply for political reasons is unacceptable.”

The Government has already allocated £6.9billion for the UK’s contribution to Horizon Europe until 2025 but says it is working on a contingency plan should the Commission continue to stall.

Lord David Frost claimed last week that the Commission risks breaching its obligations under the post–Brexit trade agreement if it continues to shut out UK organisations from Horizon Europe.

He said: Perhaps there will come a point where the value-for-money case [for joining Horizon Europe] looks less compelling than it did at the start of the year.

“We’re not at that point yet, and not close to it, but it could happen if there are endless delays.”

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