VILNIUS — A deal for the U.K. to re-enter the EU’s Horizon Europe science scheme post-Brexit must work for British taxpayers, Rishi Sunak insisted, as researchers keep their fingers crossed for an agreement.
Britain formally left Horizon when it quit the EU in January 2020, but POLITICO reported last week that a draft deal has now been reached to allow Britain to rejoin the scheme as well as the Copernicus Earth observation satellite program.
However, a bilateral meeting between the U.K. prime minister and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, which had been expected to take place Tuesday on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Vilnius, has still not been firmed up.
The two leaders had been expected to tie up the remaining loose ends of the deal, but the absence of a formal discussion this week may signal a last-minute U.K. attempt to get further concessions from the EU.
Speaking to reporters on the plane to the Lithuanian capital, Sunak did not rule out a conversation with von der Leyen at the summit — but insisted an agreement must work for the U.K.
“Our preference is to associate to Horizon but we need to make sure that we do that on terms that work for the U.K. and are in the U.K.’s best interests,” he said. “Those conversations are ongoing and it is important that we give those conversations the time to conclude. There’s no point in doing something that it is not in the interests of British taxpayers or British researchers and scientists.”