London has launched a formal dispute against the EU for its decision to block the UK from its €95bn science programme post-Brexit.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss tonight announced the UK government had begun “formal consultations” over the long-running row and has written to the EU to “launch dispute resolution proceedings”.
This is the first time the dispute resolution mechanism detailed in the 2020 UK-EU trade deal has been used by either side and is the highest escalation short of legal action.
Brussels agreed to allow the UK to join the Horizon science research programme in the Brexit trade deal, however British universities and researchers still do not have access to the programme’s cash grants.
EU officials have said the UK will not be allowed to join Horizon until there is a resolution to the Northern Ireland Protocol dispute.
Truss said the EU was in “clear breach of our agreement” and had tried to “politicise vital scientific cooperation”.
“We cannot allow this to continue,” she said.
Brussels has also blocked the UK from the Copernicus satellite system and Euratom – a nuclear energy organisation involving EU member states and other non-EU countries.
Plans were being drawn up by former science minister George Freeman to launch the UK’s own £6bn science research programme, however this proposal appears to have stalled.
A European Commission spokesperson said: “The Commission takes note of the UK’s request for consultation and will follow up on this in line with the applicable rules, as set out in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.”