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Brexit: UK starts legal action over exclusion from EU science programmes

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By Euronews, AFP
A member of protocol adjusts the EU and Union flag prior to an official greeting between the EU's Maros Sefcovic and the UK's Liz Truss,  in Brussels, Feb. 21, 2022.
A member of protocol adjusts the EU and Union flag prior to an official greeting between the EU's Maros Sefcovic and the UK's Liz Truss, in Brussels, Feb. 21, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Olivier Matthys

The UK has launched a formal appeal against its exclusion from EU scientific research programmes, using a provision in the post-Brexit agreement, the British government has confirmed. 

It is the first such challenge to the EU bloc since Brexit.

The UK government said in a statement that it had activated "a mechanism set out in the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) to resolve disputes between the UK and EU."

It said it made the move "in an effort to end persistent delays to the UK’s access to EU scientific research programmes, including Horizon Europe".

The UK noted that it had negotiated access to the programme, the European Union's research and innovation programme, but that the bloc "has still refused to finalise UK access, causing serious damage to research and development in both the UK and EU Member States".

Horizon Europe funds research, the nuclear regulator Euratom and Copernicus, the satellite earth observation programme.

"The EU is in clear breach of our agreement, repeatedly seeking to politicise vital scientific cooperation by refusing to finalise access to these important programmes. We cannot allow this to continue," Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in the statement. 

The European Commission confirmed on Wednesday morning that it had received a letter from the British government on the subject.

"The Commission acknowledges receipt of the UK's request for consultations and will respond in accordance with the applicable rules set out in the post-Brexit agreement," European Commission spokesman Daniel Ferrie said. 

But he had stressed the previous day during a regular press briefing that the issue presented "serious difficulties", noting that the trade agreement does not oblige the EU to involve the UK in such programmes.