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EU 'breaching obligations' on research fund, says UK

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-10-27 09:19

David Frost leaves the European Commission headquarters after a meeting with officials in Brussels, Belgium, Oct 7, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

The United Kingdom's Brexit chief has accused the European Union of potentially breaching the obligations of their trade deal by continuing to exclude British organizations from the Horizon Europe research fund.

The EU had approved the UK participating in its new research programs, including Horizon Europe and the Copernicus Earth observation program, in return for an estimated 2.1 billion pounds ($2.9 billion) contribution. But so far, UK organizations have been unable to bid.

Speaking at the UK Parliament's European Scrutiny committee on Monday, David Frost told lawmakers the British side was "getting quite concerned" about Brussels delaying approval of the UK's participation in the 80 billion euro ($93 billion) program, The Guardian reported.

Frost said the UK was losing patience.

"It's not a very happy place," he said. "We are getting quite concerned about this actually. There is an obligation in article 710 of the trade and cooperation agreement to finalize our participation. It uses the word 'shall'. It is an obligation. It would obviously be a breach of the treaty if the EU doesn't deliver on this obligation."

The committee suggested that the delay was punishment for the ongoing row over the Northern Ireland Protocol, noted the paper.

The Brexit minister told the committee on Monday that he has not ruled out the possibility of European Court of Justice involvement in resolving disputes in Northern Ireland, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Frost has proposed that an independent arbitration panel could replace the role of the ECJ in adjudicating on EU rules that apply in the region to maintain an invisible border with the Republic of Ireland, which is at the core of the dispute.

He told lawmakers: "What we'd like to see instead is an arbitration mechanism, which is normal in these sort of treaties … it is exactly what we have in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The arrangements in the TCA are good arrangements."

The UK believes the current arrangement gives the European Commission too much power. Frost warned that if an agreement is not found by the fall, the government could still trigger the Article 16 clause to suspend parts of the Northern Ireland protocol.

Meanwhile, France is proposing a new "go-slow" strategy for customs checks coming in and out of the UK before Christmas as the row over fishing rights after Brexit intensifies, said the Telegraph.

The paper reported that Paris is preparing a set of potential sanctions, including blocking shipments from Saturday, if French fishermen are not granted greater access to British waters.

The country's prime minister, Jean Castex, warned negotiators they have until midnight on Friday to resolve the fishing row, and Annick Girardin, France's maritime minister, has told French fishermen that she "won't give up" on the issue.

The two nations have also been quarreling over Channel migrant crossings and the UK's AUKUS nuclear submarine deal with Australia and the United States, which cut out France.

The European Commission's internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, said on Tuesday that Brexit was a "catastrophe" for the UK, reported Reuters news agency.

"Look at what is happening on the supermarket shelves, look at what is happening at the petrol pumps, look at what is happening with the shortage of nurses and doctors, look at what is happening with the shortage of truck drivers, look at what is happening in the construction sector," Breton told BFM TV.

"What is currently happening is a real drama."

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