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Research – Horizon giveaway

9 September 2023

Image Alexander Raths / Shutterstock

Westminster and Brussels have finally signed a deal to allow British scientists to take part in the European Union’s five-year Horizon Europe research programme.

The deal confirms that Britain will not take part in the Erasmus student mobility scheme, nor in Euratom, the nuclear energy research programme.

The announcement from Downing Street makes great play of “a bespoke new agreement” with financial terms that “protect the British taxpayer”.


There indeed has been fiddling around the edges of the bits of the agreement that deal with corrections to funding should the grants won by British scientists be greater or lesser than the British contribution.

‘Britain is paying dearly to be part of the programme.’

But despite the claims by Downing Street, more detail from the EU shows that Britain is paying dearly to be part of the programme.

The Downing Street announcement does not even mention how much it will all cost. In fact, the EU estimates that Britain will be paying almost €2.6 billion (£2.23 billion) a year for the privilege.

EU priorities

So British taxpayers will actually be handing over more than £2 billion a year – more than 10 per cent of its planned research spending for 2024 to 2025 – to the EU to spend according to exclusively EU priorities.

The decision not to take part in the EU’s Erasmus programme, which gives money to enable students to study abroad for up to a year, is no surprise. At the last count, three times as many students from the EU were coming to Britain under the scheme as students going from Britain to mainland Europe.