Brexit betrayal: EU forces British scientist out of £2.4million project: ‘Heartbreaking’

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Nicholas Walton, research fellow at the Institute of Astronomy, has had to pass on his leadership role in the European Space Agency’s Marie Curie Network research project. The researcher was told by the bloc that he had to either move to an EU country or pass on the role as Britain is not an associated member of Horizon Europe. This is the bloc’s £80billion flagship research programme.

While the UK was promised it could participate as part of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), the bloc told Britain it could no longer take part unless it resolves the dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Now, researchers claim the delay is harming British science as they continue to be left in the dark as to whether they will receive funding.

And they are relying on negotiators to strike a deal, leaving work hanging in the balance.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has threatened to rip up the Protocol in recent weeks as relations turn more soar, so it is perhaps not surprising UK-based scientists are bowing out.

Prof Walton, the Cambridge University astrophysicist, passed on his leadership role to a colleague in the Netherlands.

Carsten Welsch, a physicist at Liverpool University who won €2.6million (£2.2million) grant for a leadership role in a research project, is also considering following Prof Walton’s lead.

He told the Guardian: “As the UK’s association to Horizon Europe isn’t completed, we are now at real risk of losing our leadership in this consortium and to be marginalised.

“This is really heartbreaking, given the long and extremely successful track record in scientific collaboration between the UK and EU.”

But these two scientists are not alone.

The European Research Council (ERC) had promised 150 UK-based applicants Starting, Consolidator and Advanced grants under the 2021 work programme for Horizon Europe.

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He told the Guardian: “As the UK’s association to Horizon Europe isn’t completed, we are now at real risk of losing our leadership in this consortium and to be marginalised.

“This is really heartbreaking, given the long and extremely successful track record in scientific collaboration between the UK and EU.”

But these two scientists are not alone.

The European Research Council (ERC) had promised 150 UK-based applicants Starting, Consolidator and Advanced grants under the 2021 work programme for Horizon Europe.

Back in March, the European Affairs Committee claimed that the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe was being used as a pawn in negotiations around unrelated areas of the post-Brexit UK–EU relationship.

They said: “The apparent politicisation of mutually beneficial scientific cooperation is a deeply regrettable development.”

The European Union’s ambassador to the UK, João Vale de Almeida has warned that British scientists face becoming “collateral damage” in the ongoing dispute.

Calling the situation “very regrettable”, he added that Britain’s place in Horizon Europe is at increasing risk of becoming a “victim of the political impasse”.



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