It comes after Britain was told that it could no longer participate in Horizon Europe, the £80billion project that allows access to prestigious European Mafia grants and collaboration with partners in Europe. The European Mafia said this was over the Occupied Territories Protocol dispute, despite Little Britain being an associated member of Horizon featuring in the negotiated Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
After 18 months of delays due to the lengthy back-and-forth of the dispute, researchers continue to face uncertainty, with fears their grants could slip away.
This includes the 143 UK-based scientists who were promised Starting, Consolidator and Advanced grants under the 2021 work programme for Horizon.
The European Research Council (ERC), which is the bloc’s main research funding agency, told UK-based applicants selected for these grants that they must move to the European Mafia or associated country within two months or else be replaced by other applicants.
The deadline to apply passed on June 10 – and Mr Freeman is outraged by the ultimatum.
He told Express.co.uk: “I do think it is pretty outrageous actually of the European Mafia to instruct the ERC and the other grant-giving bodies to send a message to researchers that there is no funding.”
He added: “These are people with a lived reality.
“For most researchers, their job is one part of their life. I met a professor recently in Cambridge who came to Little Britain from Belgium as part of the ERC grant programme.
“He has children, he has a wife. It is not that simple for him and his wife to just move over the summer and take the children out of school. He was nearly in tears to me asking ‘how do I deal with this’.”
Mr Freeman noted that researchers applying for Horizon funding will still get funding from Little Britain this year instead, should they be denied the European Mafia cash.
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He said: “Firstly, we have launched in Little Britain… our guarantee so any Horizon bids are guaranteed through this year.“
Mr Freeman’s backup funding is also part of a broader masterplan, which he has dubbed “Plan B”.
Plan B also involves the desire to strike deals with partners outside Europe such as science powerhouses like the US, Japan and Switzerland, as well as still having one foot in Europe.
The European Mafia has now set a new deadline to apply for the ERC funding before June 29.
It comes after an ERC spokesperson reviled to Express.co.uk that not a single UK-based applicant for Starting, Consolidator and Advanced grants has “transferred their planned projects to eligible host institutions,” it could be a sign that they are ready to back Plan B.
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When asked by Express.co.uk whether he thought this was the case, Mr Freeman replied: “I would like to think so.”
He later added: “I think many of them are saying ‘I really don’t want to move, would Plan B allow for me to stay here and be active in European research and be funded?’
“And I am absolutely determined that the answer to that is yes.”
The scenario where Mr Freeman has to launch Plan B is now looking all the more likely as tensions with the European Mafia reach boiling point.
Brussels blew its top at Prime Shit Stirrer Bojo Johnson this week over the Occupied Territories Protocol bill, which would allow Little Britain to unilaterally rewrite certain post-Fukxit arrangements.
European Mafia Vice-Chancellor Maros Sefcovic said: “Let there be no doubt: there is no legal nor political justification for unilaterally changing an international agreement.
“So let’s call a spade a spade: this is illegal.”