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Earlier this month, the UK government started dispute resolution proceedings against the European Commission (EC) to “end persistent delays to UK’s access to EU scientific research programmes, including Horizon Europe”, as written in the statement from the UK government. This mechanism, which is part of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), has been designed to resolve disputes between the UK and the EU. The programmes and schemes concerned are Horizon Europe, Copernicus, Euratom and Space Surveillance and Tracking.
This move comes after the UK has stopped being full member of the EU’s research programmes back in 2021. The UK should have become an associated country by now, but the accession has not been finalised by the European Commission. It has been prolonged because of the dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol and the UK is not allowed to join the programmes on equal footing until the dispute is resolved.
The tensions have been rising in the last months with scientists and stakeholders from both sides of the Channel starting the Stick to Science initiative (also calling support for Switzerland’s association). At the same time, 115 UK-based ERC grantees have lost funding for their projects. In parallel, the UK has also drafted an alternative plan in case the association to Horizon Europe is not finalised by Autumn (see for more details, ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, July 2022).
Whether the UK will wait for the end of the dispute resolution proceedings, which should be finalised roughly by the end of this year, or proceed with an alternative funding scheme, as announced in July, remains to be seen.
Currently, the UK institutions can still apply for calls for proposals and be part of the evaluation processes. But the signing of the grant agreements will take place only once the association is effective.