27 June 2023

Talks on UK joining EU Horizon research programme ‘crunchy’, says Hunt

27 June 2023

Talks on the UK participating in the Horizon Europe science programme have not stalled but are looking at “crunchy” financial details, Jeremy Hunt said.

The Chancellor said any agreement on UK involvement would depend upon the benefit to taxpayers.

Mr Hunt said the “optimal outcome” would be to find a way for participation in the programme to “work for the UK”.

Asked about the negotiations during a visit to Brussels, he said: “I wouldn’t describe them as stalled. I think that they are becoming more crunchy as we start to work out precisely what terms for participation in Horizon would be fair to UK taxpayers and work for the UK.

“But I think both sides recognise that it is a successful and very important programme and the optimal outcome will be to find a way where participation can work for the UK.”

Horizon Europe is a collaboration involving Europe’s leading research institutes and technology companies.

The Government was set for membership of the programme as part of the Brexit trade deal but that was scuppered by disputes over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Those have now been resolved through the Windsor Framework and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen opened the door to Rishi Sunak to join the scheme.

The Chancellor was in Brussels to sign a memorandum of understanding with financial services commissioner Mairead McGuinness in the latest sign that damage in the relationship between the UK and EU was being repaired.

She said: “I think both sides know that there are benefits to have a shared area around science and innovation.

“I like the word crunchy … I think the objective is a shared one and certainly I would encourage more crunching so that we get a result.”

Meanwhile, another complication in the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU has emerged in Gibraltar, where Spain is reportedly eyeing up control of the territory’s airport.

The Times reported that talks on the long-term relationship between Gibraltar and its neighbour Spain had foundered over the issue.

“The Spanish have asked for a regulatory framework over the management of the airport which implies Spanish jurisdiction, which is not something that Gibraltar can tolerate,” Vice-Admiral Sir David Steel, the governor of Gibraltar, said.

In Westminster, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We’re working side by side with the government of Gibraltar, we’re committed to concluding the UK-EU treaty as soon as possible.”

That would not be possible before Spain’s elections on July 23, the spokesman said, but “we remain a steadfast supporter of Gibraltar, and we’re not going to do anything that would compromise sovereignty”.

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