Leading Brexiteer Sir Iain Duncan Smith has accused the EU of using its flagship £81billion science programme, Horizon, as a “weapon to bully the UK” after Rishi Sunak opted to delay the decision on whether to rejoin the research group until after the summer.
Talks between Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen have been ongoing regarding the terms upon which the UK could rejoin the scientific community.
However, an agreement is yet to be reached and Sir Iain does not believe the proposed arrangement is in the taxpayer’s interests.
He told Express.co.uk: “I don’t think it is value for money. We do not really control where the money is spent.
“The reality is the Horizon programme needs us more than we need it. We are the science superpower of Europe.”
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The former Tory leader said that the EU has made life difficult for the UK on the issue of joint scientific research and that France and Germany are trying to exploit the UK’s legitimate interest in rejoining Horizon Europe.
He told this website: “The truth is they [the EU] have demonstrated their political nature when they used it [Horizon] as a weapon to bully the UK.
“Do you want to be a prisoner to a club that uses politics when it is meant to be all about science?”
“They know they have a tool here. You watch what happens when they freeze us out. Do you want to put your future science in the hands of a group of people who don’t care about UK science?
“They’ve shown their true colours. Only idiots would fail to recognise that the EU uses every device it has to make life difficult for the UK.”
The current stumbling block between both negotiating parties is centred around the UK’s contributions to the scheme and whether or not it would be short-changed under the proposed terms.
As it stands, the UK would be expected to pay in a proportion of its GDP – around £1.7billion. However, there are concerns that British science would get less out of the arrangement than the Government is putting in.
Sir Iain backed the alternative UK-led scientific research programme, Pioneer.
Setting out the basis for the alternative plan, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology said on its website: “The Government is discussing association to Horizon Europe with the EU and hopes these negotiations will be successful. That is our preference.
“But association would need to be on the basis of a good deal for the UK’s researchers, businesses and taxpayers.
“If we are not able to secure association on fair and appropriate terms, we will implement Pioneer – our bold, ambitious alternative.”
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The MP for Chingford and Woodford Green backed the PM’s decision to delay the decision on rejoining Horizon until after the summer.
He said: “Rishi Sunak is right to hold back.
“We are actually one of the leading nations in science. Europe needs the UK more than the UK needs Europe.”
He backed Pioneer and believed it would draw greater investment into British science.
He said: “Our science is sought after by others. This would lead to huge investment in our universities.”
Former MEP Ben Habib told Express.co.uk that Horizon was far more than a scientific research organisation but rather an intensely political organisation.
He said: “Horizon Europe is anything but a benign scientific programme.
“It is research for the benefit of and the promotion of EU political aims. That is something that it says on its website.
“That is the purpose of the programme and the UK should definitely not be signing into it.
“A lot of Government ministers do not appreciate what Horizon Europe is. It is a politically motivated research programme.”
Explaining its mission, Horizon Europe does note that it facilitates the implementation of the EU Commission’s objectives: “The programme facilitates collaboration and strengthens the impact of research and innovation in developing, supporting and implementing EU policies while tackling global challenges.”
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