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The UK has agreed to rejoin the EU’s Horizon research program with a discount of 800 million euros to make up for the almost three years it has been locked down since Brexit.

The deal, which still has to be ratified by EU member states, was announced on Thursday after months of intense negotiations.

The €95.5bn Horizon Europe multilateral research program is the world’s largest, involving more than 40 countries and covering areas from climate change to new medicines and artificial intelligence.

The UK also participates in the Copernicus satellite observation program but refuses to join the European Union’s nuclear technology programme, Euratom.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak finalized the deal in a phone call with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday. He said this would help ensure the UK becomes a tech superpower by 2030.

“Innovation has long been fundamental to Britain’s prosperity, from breakthroughs that improve healthcare to technological advances that grow the economy,” Sunak said.

The UK will pay nothing for the first three years of the scheme (from July 2021), but scientists can start bidding for funding immediately.Nearly 2.6 billion euros will then be provided annually, with a slight increase “Recovery Mechanism” to ensure that its contribution does not exceed the amount it receives.

If the UK puts in more than 16% of its spending, it will automatically get some cash back. Previously, such clawbacks required a performance review by the EU-UK Partnership Commission, which manages post-Brexit trade relations.

London said it had decided to pursue its own fusion energy strategy rather than working with Euratom. “This will involve close international collaboration, including with European partners, and a new, cutting-edge replacement programme, backed by up to £650m to 2027,” the UK government said.

Von der Leyen said: “The EU and the UK are important strategic partners and allies, and today’s agreement proves this. We will continue to be at the forefront of global scientific research.”

UK scientists have been able to bid for Horizon-funded projects, with the UK funding itself. But they have previously been unable to lead bids, which universities say has held them back, and some researchers have left to work in the EU.

Sir Adrian Smith, president of the Royal Society, said it was “fantastic news”.

“Science is international collaboration, and joining forces (with Horizon) is a huge win. It allows us to continue decades of collaborative research with European partners, and strengthens our global collaboration that puts us as a country at the forefront of At the forefront of science and innovation.”

The deal is a further sign of improving relations between London and Brussels, following a deal in February that ended a bitter standoff over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade arrangements.

The EU has refused to allow the UK to cooperate with Horizon until this issue is resolved.

A European diplomat said they would scrutinize the deal before ratifying it. “The financial situation needs to be cleared up before we can sign off. We will not pay to put Britain back on the horizon,” they said.

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