LONDON, Sept 7 (Reuters) – Britain announced on Thursday it would rejoin the European Union’s flagship Horizon science research programme in a “bespoke” new agreement after a post-Brexit dispute, but London would not associate with its Euratom nuclear energy scheme.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office said in a statement the British leader had secured “improved financial terms of association” under the terms of the agreement with the EU.
“We have worked with our EU partners to make sure that this is the right deal for the UK, unlocking unparalleled research opportunities, and also the right deal for British taxpayers,” Sunak said.
Sunak’s office said Britain would also associate with the European earth observation programme Copernicus, but had decided not to align with the EU’s Euratom programme, instead choosing to pursue a domestic fusion energy strategy.
Under a Brexit trade agreement signed at the end of 2020, Britain negotiated access to a range of EU science and innovation programmes, including Horizon, the EU’s largest funding programme for researchers with an overall budget of 95.5 billion euros ($102 billion).
The EU blocked Britain’s participation because of a row over post-Brexit trade rules governing Northern Ireland, but an agreement to resolve that dispute was reached earlier this year, opening the door to Britain rejoining Horizon Europe.
Britain had questioned how much it needed to pay to rejoin, having missed two years of the seven year programme.
Science and technology minister Michelle Donelan told Times Radio that Britain would not pay for the years where it had been frozen out, and that there was a “clawback” mechanism which would effectively provide a rebate if Britain got less out of the association than it was putting in.
Britain and the European Commission in a joint statement said the agreement had “appropriate terms” to reflect the years Britain was absent.
($1 = 0.9328 euros)