The Windsor Framework agreed between the UK and the EU on Monday could pave the way for full UK participation in European research programmes.

UK involvement in programmes like Horizon Europe, Euratom and Copernicus has been on hold for the last two years due to an unrelated dispute over trade in and out of Northern Ireland. But the Windsor Framework agreed yesterday between UK prime minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen appears to resolve the trade dispute and clears the way for an agreement over UK association to EU research programmes.

In a press conference, von der Leyen described the Windsor Framework as ‘good news for scientists and researchers in the European Union and the UK’, and noted that she is happy to begin negotiations over Horizon Europe ‘immediately’ when the framework is ratified.

In response to the announcement, Universities UK chief executive Vivienne Stern expressed relief that the framework had been agreed. ‘The removal of this political roadblock must now lead to the rapid confirmation of UK association to Horizon Europe, Copernicus and Euratom, as set out in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement,’ she said. ‘Full association with Horizon continues to be the best outcome for both the UK, and for our research partners across Europe and beyond. We urge all sides to start the necessary talks now so that association can take effect as soon as the framework is implemented.’

Royal Society president Adrian Smith also welcomed the news, noting that the two years of delays had ‘damaged science across Europe’. ‘These schemes support outstanding international collaboration, and the sooner we join them, the better for everyone,’ he said.

Smith also referenced unspent research funds intended for UK participation in Horizon Europe that were recently handed back to the UK Treasury. ‘In light of the recent return to the Treasury of a £1.6 billion underspend that was intended for association to Horizon Europe, it is reassuring that Treasury sources are now reported as saying that the money will be spent in subsequent financial years.’