UK to rejoin EU’s Copernicus and Horizon schemes

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In a step forward for European space and scientific collaboration, the UK is set to rejoin the Copernicus and Horizon Europe programs. 

The UK was a major expertise and financial contributor to both programs prior to its decision to leave the EU. The EU blocked an agreement in the Brexit deal for the UK to become an associate member of Horizon over the long-running dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

A resolution to the dispute was reached under the Windsor Framework earlier this year, paving the way for a restoration of relations between the UK and EU and closer cooperation for the benefit of the entire continent. At the time, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said the framework allowed the UK and the EU to begin a “new chapter in relations”.

The UK’s association with Copernicus signifies access to state-of-the-art Earth monitoring capabilities and services. At a time when addressing environmental and climate change challenges is paramount, this access is invaluable. Furthermore, the UK will also benefit from EU Space Surveillance and Tracking services.

Additionally, the association of the UK with Horizon Europe will not only strengthen but also deepen ties between the scientific communities of the UK and the EU. This partnership will enable researchers from both sides to collaborate on pressing global challenges, ranging from climate change to health.

UK researchers will enjoy equal access to strategic components of the Horizon Europe program, placing them on par with other associated countries.

Starting from the 2024 Work Programmes and onwards, UK researchers will be able to participate fully in Horizon Europe, including joining leading consortia. For the 2023 Work Programmes, transitional arrangements will continue to be administered by the European Commission, with the UK providing funding under the UK Guarantee. This arrangement ensures the continuity of long-term partnerships between UK and EU scientists and researchers.

Joint outreach and engagement activities will be undertaken by the European Commission and the UK Government to encourage the participation of UK entities in both programs. This collaborative approach aligns with the terms of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

To address the financial aspect of this collaboration, the European Commission and the UK Government have agreed upon suitable terms regarding the UK’s financial contribution for the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027. These terms reflect the fact that UK researchers did not participate in Horizon Europe or Copernicus from their inception in 2021.

Today’s agreement in principle marks a significant step forward in EU-UK cooperation on matters of shared interest. Both the European Commission and the UK Government are committed to making full use of the opportunities provided by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

Following this announcement, the European Commission and the UK Government will collaborate to promptly adopt the necessary legal instruments. These instruments will be subject to approval by the Council of the European Union, with the Specialised Committee on Participation in Union Programmes overseeing the adoption process.

The pivotal agreement reached this week sets the stage for a new era of collaboration and innovation between the UK and the EU. More importantly, it further helps to settle the bitter divisions that emerged in the aftermath of Brexit during a particularly tumultuous period for the whole of Europe.

(Image Credit: Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

See also: Microsoft: UN treaty creates ‘ideal conditions’ for cybercrime

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