Brexit and UK Access to EU Funding Programmes

Written on the 29th December, 2020

The EU and UK finally agreed a Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) on Christmas Eve.  The Agreement  runs to 1245 pages and there are supplementary Protocols just to add to the length and complexity of a difficult read.

Many UK organisations that currently benefit from EU funding programmes will be extremely disappointed at the extremely limited  access to EU Funding programmes.  In his announcement of the Deal, Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Negotiator, said that the UK would be able to access research, innovation, nuclear power and space programmes.

Participation in Union Programmes – Treaty and Protocol Texts

Information about UK Participation in funding programmes is found in Part 5 of the Agreement and states in Paragraph 2 that the UK cannot access Cohesion Programmes under European Territorial Co-operation.  It then goes on to list various common aspects of funding programmes such as conditions for participation; compliance with programme rules; and sound financial management. These aspects will be familiar to those involved in current EU programmes.   The expectation is that the Agreement would outline programmes that the UK can access but the text states that this information is in a separate Protocol in the ‘Joint Declaration on Participation in Union Programmes.’  The Protocol will be administered by a ‘Specialist Committee on Participating in Union Programmes.’ Their first task will be to approve the Protocol and that begs the question is UK participation in Horizon Europe a done deal?

The Protocol states that the UK will join Horizon Europe as an ‘Associated Country.’  This means that the UK will only have observer status in the Horizon Europe structure but will have no say in shaping the Programme.   It appears that the UK will be able to access both the main Horizon Europe Programme and the Horizon Europe section that is  part of the EU Recovery Package.

The UK Government must contribute financially to Horizon Europe and it is thought that this contribution is around €15 to 18 billion for the Budget period 2021 to 2027 and was an area of contention earlier in the TCA negotiations.  The UK Government cannot reclaim any of this contribution if UK partners are not involved in projects that take up the whole UK contribution.  This means that the UK needs to obtain 16% of the funding from Horizon Europe and, at the moment, it receives around 12% of Horizon 2020.  This figure of 12% could have been depressed by the uncertainty of the UK’s long-term participation  in the Horizon Programme.

There have been reports during the negotiations that the UK government was concerned about the size of the UK contribution.  The UK Government has withdrawn from the Erasmus+ Programme due to the size of the UK contribution and let’s hope that the same fate does not affect Horizon Europe.

The work of the Specialist Committee on Participating in Union Programmes could discuss UK access to other Programmes and it is a potential mechanism to put pressure on the UK Government to join o Programmes such as the EU Innovation Fund.

The whole TCA will be reviewed after four years,

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