The UK has prepared an “alternative” to the EU’s science programs as membership negotiations have stalled, the science, research and innovation minister has said.
“We in this country voted to leave the European Monetary and Political Union,” George Freeman told the Financial Times Investing in space conference on Thursday.
Freeman said a majority of his constituents voted to leave the EU, but “there is no way they want to leave Europe’s scientific, cultural, artistic, defense and security network”.
“There is a mechanism in the Northern Ireland Protocol to settle disputes, there is no mechanism to use Horizon, Euratom and Copernicus as a negotiating tool,” he said, referring to EU science programmes.
Freeman visited Brussels on Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to persuade the EU to unlock the UK’s participation, agreed under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
“Yesterday I was prevented from meeting with the commission for the sixth time,” Freeman said. “If we are blocked by Copernicus, I am determined that we will make this an opportunity to invest the same money. . . and collaborate with other countries and build a really strong commercial earth observation sector,” he added.
Britain would move to “Plan B” if its membership in Joint Science Projects is not resolved “in the coming weeks and months,” Freeman said. “We have been locked out for 18 months, I cannot allow our science and research and industrial sectors to be benched. . . without security and trust,” he added.