See EU! Britain poised to strike Swiss partnership in 'very strong' research collaboration

The UK was blocked from access to Horizon Europe, the EU’s key programme for research and innovation after Mariya Gabriel, the European Union’s Commissioner for Innovation and Research, said issues over Brexit must be resolved before the UK can rejoin. James Wilsdon, from the Research on Research Institute at Sheffield University., told that while the UK’s exclusion from the project could be damaging for British science, there could be a silver lining.

Switzerland is facing a similar situation.

The European Commission announced on Monday that they must agree to a timeline for ironing out broader political disagreements with the EU before they would be granted access.

Switzerland’s federal council has already released 400,000,000 Swiss Franc (£320,674,072) to fund its own research projects instead.

But Mr Wilsdon thinks Britain and Switzerland could strike a partnersip.

He told “We could particularly do something with Switzerland as they are in the same boat that we are.

“One could imagine a very strong Anglo-Swiss scientific collaboration initiative getting underway quicker than most countries.”

And Mr Wilsdon said that partnering with the Swiss is not Britain’s only option.

He said: “We could develop more bilateral and potentially even multilateral lateral funding schemes but with smaller groups of countries.

“We already did some of that already with joint funding schemes with the French and the Germans, so you could scale that up.”

And these collaborations may already be in the works, as Science Minister George Freeman has mentioned that the UK is plotting a ‘Plan B’.

He wrote on Twitter: “If the EU decide Northern Ireland Protocol politics stops the UK joining Horizon Europe, we have a bold Plan B!”

Brexit Minister Lord Frost and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng are reportedly working on a “Discovery Fund” as an alternative to science projects Brussels stalled Britain from entering over the disputes.

But Mr Wilsdon warned that this won’t be easy to pull off.

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The government has stressed that being a part of Horizon Europe is certainly their preferred option.

A senior Government source said: “Blocking the UK from joining Horizon is in no one’s interest – we can’t participate and they lose out our financial contribution.

“We’re having to look at alternatives in case the EU does block our access, which would be a breach of what we agreed less than a year ago.”

And with fear as that Article 16 could be triggered as soon as March, the UK could become permanently excluded from the project.

Mr Wilsdon warned: “If Article 16 is invoked, I would think that it would take our association with the project off the table entirely.”

It comes after European Commission Vice President said that triggering Article 16 would have “serious consequences”.