UK to rejoin the EUs Horizon science programme after agreement on pay demands

Rishi Sunak and von der Leyen discuss Horizon Europe

Britain is reportedly set to rejoin the European Union’s £85 billion Horizon science research programme after a two-year absence over a bitter post-Brexit row.

Sources familiar with the negotiations between the two sides said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has given the go-ahead for a deal to be finalised.

An agreement could be announced within days, Bloomberg reported.

But the level of compensation for the UK being frozen out of the scheme for two years during a post-Brexit row over Northern Ireland is still thought to be an issue.

A conversation with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen would be expected before the announcement.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions earlier, Mr Sunak said his “priority and preference” was to associate with Horizon but “on terms that are right for both the British taxpayer and for British science and research”.

In a hint at a possible breakthrough, he added the Government had been “extensively involved in discussions” with the EU and “I hope to be able to conclude those successfully”.

Whitehall sources said in July that a draft deal was with the Prime Minister, prompting scientists to cautiously celebrate the development.

But Downing Street said a UK-based alternative known as Pioneer remained on the table as Mr Sunak continued to be concerned about “value for money”.

Horizon is a collaboration involving Europe’s leading research institutes and technology companies.

EU member states contribute funds, which are then allocated to individuals or organisations on merit.

Britain continued to participate following Brexit but was locked out during the row over trading rules for Northern Ireland in 2020.

But relations have improved since Mr Sunak struck his Windsor Framework deal with the bloc in February to resolve issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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