Brexit: EU ambassador believes UK plan is ‘illegal’
The UK is taking the EU to court as it has been blocking access to international science programmes, including the £80billion Horizon Europe. Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA ), it was agreed that Britain would take part in Horizon, Copernicus and Euratom. But as the Brexit feud rumbles on, the EU has stated that UK researchers could no longer take part in these projects until the Northern Ireland Protocol dispute is resolved.
This has meant that for over 18 months, UK researchers promised prestigious EU grants through Horizon have not been able to access that funding, despite this being previously agreed.
As the delay continues, the UK has decided to launch “formal consultations” – a mechanism under the TCA – according to Government sources – in a bid to end the delay.
Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told Express.co.uk that the UK has a “strong case” for the legal action.
He also unleashed his fury at the bloc for dragging the British researchers into the political feud, which they having nothing to do with.
He said: “It is absolutely right of the Government to do this (take legal action).
Iain Duncan Smith claims the UK has a strong case as takes the bloc to court over a legal dispute
UK researchers were promised EU funds through Horizon
“The EU has behaved badly since this whole process began and they have tried to use areas which were previously an agreement to try and get even with the UK, particularly over the Protocol and the new bill going through.
“In all logic, trying to exclude British scientists from the Horizon programme will damage Europe enormously and is a self-defeating objective.
“It is also quite wrong to link these things, which they are not allowed to do in trade terms at all.”
Sir Iain added: “They fuss when anything happens to them but they are very quick to take the law into their own hand.
“The truth is, the Government has a very strong case.”
Ms Truss has said “the EU is in clear breach of our agreement”
The Russell Group, which represents 24 leading research-intensive universities, has long been calling on the EU to let Britain back into the science programmes.
Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, said: “Despite the delays, securing the UK’s full association to Horizon Europe remains the best outcome for both the UK and the EU, which is why scientists and researchers on both sides of the channel have consistently called for all parties to deliver what was agreed in the Withdrawal Agreement.
“The Government has made clear that full participation in Horizon Europe, Euratom and Copernicus, continues to be its top priority.
“We hope the decision to enter formal consultations will help resolve the current impasse and unlock the enormous benefits that UK association to Horizon Europe and other key programmes will bring to both sides.”
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Sefcovic has called the UK’s Northern Ireland Protocol bill “illegal”
Foreign Secretary and Tory leadership contender Liz Truss said: “The EU is in clear breach of our agreement, repeatedly seeking to politicise vital scientific co-operation by refusing to finalise access to these important programmes.
“We cannot allow this to continue.”
But while the UK is reportedly set to take the EU to court, which could happen as early as this week according to two Government sources, the bloc has also been taking legal action against Britain.
It came after the UK announced plans to pass a bill which would let Britain unilaterally override sections of the Northern Ireland Protocol, a move EU Vice-Commissioner Maros Sefcovic has called “illegal”.
But according to Sir Iain, the UK is well within its rights to pass this bill.
Lammy has said both sides need to be more flexible to resolve the dispute
He said: “In Article 13.8, it makes it clear that the Protocol is not a permanent feature and that it can be changed in whole or in part at any time.
“The most important feature of the Protocol, which trumps everything else, is the support for the existence of the Good Friday Agreement and its continuation in practical times.
“Because the European Union refuses to enter any discussions about changing the Protocol, even though it is written into the Protocol that it could change, it leaves the Government no other option but to place the Good Friday agreement above the rest of the Protocol and ensure that the Protocol does not damage it, which is what they are doing.”
But according to shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, both sides need to “show more flexibility” to resolve their disagreements over Horizon.
He said: “Instead of continuing the pattern of starting rows with the EU to appeal to their Tory base, the next prime minister should sit down with all parties to ease the tensions and find agreement in the national interest.”