European Scrutiny Committee: government failure to explain future links with EU’s Horizon and power connections initiatives is ‘deeply worrying’

The chair of the European Scrutiny Committee has described as “deeply worrying” a lack of information from the government on how it will take forward co-operation with the EU on key research programmes and various other programmes including the ‘Connecting Europe’ initiative to build further energy connections across the EU and UK.

In the government’s command paper of 27 February on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, it confirmed the UK will ‘consider’ seeking participation in four EU programmes, That included the “Horizon Europe” research programme and the Euratom nuclear research programme as well as the Copernicus earth observation project and the “Peace Plus” cross-border cooperation scheme on the island of Ireland.

The European Scrutiny Committee wrote to the Treasury on 26 March to ask about those plans and about other planned co-operation. It noted a gap in the command paper, saying, “There is no reference to the possibility of funding from the Connecting Europe Facility for cross-border energy projects between the UK and the EU, despite the ambition for “technical cooperation[...] in the planning and use of energy infrastructure” and the “integration of renewable power and investment in decarbonisation projects in the north seas”.

The committee noted in March that the potential UK financial contribution in return for involvement, especially in the case of “Horizon Europe”, could be significant. It also asked the government to “clarify precisely” how it could say that under the new UK-EU partnership there cannot be “any jurisdiction by the CJEU over the UK’s laws, or any supranational control in any area”, while a pre-requisite for joining such programmes is accepting some jurisdiction fro European courts.  

Now European Scrutiny Committee chair Bill Cash MP has wrtten to ask the Treasury why it has failed to reply nearly two months later, saying that “the government’s apparent inability to facilitate parliamentary scrutiny on this matter, a relatively non-controversial element of the UK’s new relationship with the EU, is deeply worrying”.

He said the lack of response was, ”Particularly disappointing in light of the fact that the clarifications we sought related either to the reasons underpinning a government policy decision (the selection of EU programmes in which the UK wishes to continue participating) or related to demands the government must have known the EU would make in return for such involvement (a financial contribution and a limited role for certain EU institutions, including the CJEU).” He told the chief secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Barclay MP, that, “If your response is unsatisfactory, or delayed further, it is likely you will be asked to give evidence about this matter in person”.

European Scrutiny Committee letter

See the Royal Society view

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