Anti-Brexit campaigners have called on Britain to rejoin the EU after it was announced the UK is to return to the bloc’s £85bn Horizon science programme.
The agreement means researchers based in the UK can, from Thursday, apply for grants to take part in the collaboration programme after prime minister Rishi Sunak secured what he called “the right deal for British taxpayers”.
According to the EU’s estimate, Britain will contribute around £2.2bn per year to participate in both Horizon and the Copernicus space programme from 1 January, when its association membership with the projects begins.
The breakthrough has been welcomed by scientists who were frozen out of the scheme in a row over post-Brexit rules.
Campaigners have argued that the deal proves that the UK needs closer relationships with the EU.
One prominent anti-Brexit MEP, Guy Verhofstadt – and who was the European Parliament's representative on matters relating to Brexit in the run-up to the vote – wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter): “If true, great… Now rejoin Erasmus, because young people deserve every opportunity. And then simply rejoin the European Union, because Britain and Europe belong together!”
However, Sunak played down suggestions that the deal could pave the way for closer co-operation with the EU, instead telling broadcasters that “when it comes to the research world, collaboration is really important”.
In light of the announcement, would you vote to rejoin the EU if a vote was held today?
What do British people think now?
Public opinion has seemingly turned against Brexit, according to polling from YouGov in July.
If the EU referendum was held again, most Britons (only just) say they would vote to remain at 55%.
Indeed, if a new referendum were called on whether or not to return to the EU, 51% of Britons would vote to rejoin, compared to 32% who would vote to stay out
Out of those who voted to leave in the 2016 referendum, nearly a fifth (18%) said they would now switch their vote to remain, while nearly three quarters (73%) said they would vote to leave the EU again.
the polling also suggests that the 'Bregret' sentiment has never been higher, with 57% of people saying the country was wrong to vote for Brexit.
Seven in 10 Britons (70%) say the government is handling Brexit badly.
What have Labour and the Tories said?
Labour went into the 2019 election pledging a new referendum on Brexit after renegotiation on the deal.
But while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer once campaigned for a second EU referendum, he has since proposed tweaks to the settlement – but scrapped any ideas of rejoining.
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said a Labour government would be “pragmatic” in any dealings with the EU, but would not push for rejoining the EU, the single market or the customs union.
He told a trade conference in June that the policy would “disappoint some people” but it was “mistaken” to attempt to rejoin “after such a messy divorce”.
Conservative deputy chairman, Lee Anderson, said that his party would “protect Brexit”, despite Tory backbencher Tobias Ellwood previously suggesting that Britain should rejoin the single market to help ease the cost of living crisis.