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Britain rejoining science research programme amid Brexit relation

UNITED KINGDOM (AP) – Britain is rejoining the European Union’s (EU) USD100 billion science-sharing programme Horizon Europe, the two sides announced yesterday, more than two years after the country’s membership became a casualty of Brexit.

British scientists expressed relief at the decision, the latest sign of thawing relations between the EU and its former member nation. After months of negotiations, the British government said the country was becoming a fully associated member of the research collaboration body United Kingdom (UK)-based scientists can bid for Horizon funding starting yesterday and will be able to lead Horizon-backed science projects starting in 2024. Britain is also rejoining Copernicus, the EU space programme’s Earth observation component.

“The EU and UK are key strategic partners and allies, and today’s agreement proves that point,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who signed off on the deal during a call with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. “We will continue to be at the forefront of global science and research.” The EU blocked Britain from Horizon during a feud over trade rules for Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK that shares a border with an EU member, the Republic of Ireland. The two sides struck a deal to ease those tensions in February, but Horizon negotiations have dragged on over details of how much the UK will pay for its membership.

Sunak said he had struck the right deal for British taxpayers. The EU said Britain would pay almost EUR2.6 billion a year on average for Copernicus and Horizon.

The UK will not have to pay for the period it was frozen out of the science-sharing programme, which has a EUR95.5 billion for the 2021-27 period.

Relations between Britain and the bloc were severely tested during the long divorce negotiations that followed Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the EU.

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at a press conference in Windsor, England. PHOTO: AP