France fails in Brexit revenge plot as UK set for easy access to £85 billion EU scheme

Fishing: UK set for ‘high level Brexit meetings’ with EU in June

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A host of EU nations have defeated an effort by President Emmanuel Macron to treat the UK like a rogue state, such as Russia, China and Iran. The influential leader had secured the support of top eurocrat Thierry Breton to ensure British, Swiss and Israeli experts were no longer allowed to take part in a number of European science projects. They feared our boffins could leak sensitive information, with military and space applications, to outside power blocks.

The Commission, backed up by Paris, wanted to exclude the UK from any Horizon Europe project involving quantum computing, artificial intelligence and space.

But member states have defeated the proposal, insisting national governments should have the final say over whether British experts are allowed to participate in the schemes.

The UK secured associate membership to the Horizon programme in the Brexit trade deal.

It enables British universities, companies and researchers to continue bidding for pan-European funding with other member countries.

In a victory for British experts, there will no longer be any blanket bans on attempts to join in with Horizon-funded programmes.

One diplomatic source familiar with the discussions said: “Breton bites the dust.”

As many as 18 EU nations, including Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands, have voiced concerns over plans to exclude Britain from many of the research schemes.

They argued it would be detrimental to Europe’s tech sector if leaders in Britain are not allowed to participate in the most innovative projects. first revealed details of the French-led plot in March.

At the time, Mr Breton was briefing that future partnerships with Britain “pose similar risks to partnering with China or Iran”.

He said the bloc should immediately work on a regulation to squeeze non-EU countries out of any European projects on new so-called “quantum technology”. 

France’s top eurocrat insisted the move was vital to protect the EU’s “resilience, leadership and sovereignty”.

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Britain’s participation in Horizon Europe still needs to be finalised, but diplomats believe this to be a simple “box-ticking exercise”.

But it was recently reported that the UK could pull the plug on the flagship research programme in a row over access to funding.

Ministers believe the EU is deliberately going slow on formalising Britain’s participation to Horizon Europe.

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Brussels sources say the row can be resolved simply at the next meeting on the EU-UK Partnership Council.

Brexit minister Lord Frost and his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic are due to meet in London this week to discuss the implementation of both the divorce and the future relationship deals.

On finalising Horizon participation, one source said: “This is a matter of time and will be a check the box exercise.”

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