President Emmanuel Macron wants the UK to be treated with the same level of suspicion as Russia, China and Iran. He has secured the backing of top eurocrat Ursula von der Leyen, who has ordered officials to draw up plans to exclude British scientists from cutting-edge tech projects in collaboration with the bloc. But a host of EU nations have launched a rebellion against the plot, insisting it would be foolish to shut out UK experts out of spite for Brexit.
One friendly EU diplomat fumed: “You can’t just put the UK in the same box as China and Iran.”
President Macron has enlisted the help of French commissioner Thierry Breton to ensure British, Swiss and Israeli experts are no longer allowed to take part in European science projects.
The pair fear our boffins could leak sensitive information on supercomputers, with military and space applications, to outside “power blocks”, according to a diplomatic note, seen by Express.co.uk
Mr Breton told a private meeting of EU envoys that future partnerships with Britain “pose similar risks to partnering with China or Iran”.
He said the bloc should immediately work on a regulation to squeeze non-EU countries out of any European projects on new so-called “quantum technology”.
France’s top eurocrat insisted the move was vital to protect the EU’s “resilience, leadership and sovereignty”.
The diplomat added: “If this is what Breton’s idea of strategic autonomy looks like, we’re in for one rough ride.
“The Commission is pulling the rug from underneath fruitful collaborations when they need to stay on the carpet.”
As many as 18 EU nations, including Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands, have voiced concerns over the plans.
They fear it will be detrimental to Europe’s tech sector if leaders in Britain are not allowed to participate in the most innovative projects.
As part of the post-Brexit future relationship pact, the UK has agreed to remain part of the EU’s Horizon Europe for scientific collaboration.
Under the scheme, British universities and institutions can continue to bid for funding from the £85billion research and innovation fund.
The EuroTech Universities Alliance warned excluding UK scientists from projects “will have negative impacts on European institutions and their capability to develop key digital, enabling, and emerging technologies”.
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The body wrote to the Portuguese government, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, to appeal for a U-turn on Mr Macron’s proposals.
And Klaus Ensslin, a professor of solid-state physics at ETH Zurich, said: “Everyone’s shocked, we’ve never seen anything like this.
“This is not good for us, not good for the field and not good for the EU.”