'We have a Plan B!' UK fires back after EU bans Brexit Britain from £80bn project

Horizon Europe is the EU’s signature funding initiative that pools in more than £80billion (€95billion) for research and innovation. And Mariya Gabriel, the European Union’s Commissioner for Innovation and Research, blocked Britain from joining the project until it resolves the deepening row over the Northern Ireland Protocol. But now, Britain has a “bold plan B”, according to George Freeman MP, UK Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation.

“But if the EU decide Northern Ireland Protocol politics stops UK joining Horizon Europe, we have a bold Plan B!”

British Science writer Ehsan Masood posted: “This looks pretty big. Horizon Europe has started. How long will @beisgovuk and UK science agencies wait before they can start talks to join?

“Or go with Plan B – create a bespoke international collaboration fund?”

The UK does have a smaller existing fund for international collaboration on science and innovation.

The Fund for International Collaboration (FIC) is a £160 million fund supporting international collaboration.

It boosts the UK’s ability to build new, and strengthen existing, partnerships with global research and innovation leaders – and has already supported more than 30 international collaborative programmes of research, innovation and infrastructure.

Calls to rival the EU’s Horizon project will need to dramatically expand the scope to challenge Brussels.

But Mr Freeman’s post has hinted this may be Brexit Britain’s master plan.

His comments came after Ms Gabriel warned that “transversal” political issues needed to be resolved before the EU could move forward with Britain in talks to join the project.

Ms Gabriel said: “I think that it is important on our side to confirm our opinion to advance on association, but only after the framework is agreed by both sides.”

Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit status has been one of the most contentious issues between Britain and the EU since its exit.

After Britain withdrew from the bloc, agreements were made to protect Northern Ireland’s position in the EU’s single market without implementing a hard customs border.

He said:  “Viewed from our perspective, we look at the EU and see an organisation that doesn’t seem to want to get back to constructive working together.

He said the blocking of the UK’s entry to Horizon [Europe] was an example of this.

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