Horizon Brexit row fixed? Now let’s sort electric vehicles, Rishi Sunak tells EU

Horizon Brexit row fixed? Now let’s sort electric vehicles, Rishi Sunak tells EU

POLITICO — 2023-09-08

Automotive Industry

The UK. rejoining the EU's flagship Horizon science funding program could pave the way for an agreement to delay damaging post-Brexit tariffs on electric vehicles (EVs), Rishi Sunak suggested.

The UK. prime minister, speaking to reporters traveling with him to India for the G20 summit, said this week's deal to rejoin Horizon after years of being frozen out post-Brexit showed that relations with the EU were now “positive” and “constructive.”

The British government announced on Thursday that it was rejoining the Horizon and Copernicus programs, giving British researchers access to grants from the €96 billion schemes.

Next on the list of post-Brexit headaches are looming new European tariffs on EV trade, due January 1 next year, which will slap a 10% tax on UK.-EU trade in electric vehicles if a majority of key parts, such as batteries, aren’t made in either Britain or the EU.

The UK. is pushing for an extension of the deadline to give carmakers the chance to meet these requirements.

Asked whether he would raise the issue with European leaders in India, Sunak said: “This is something that we’ve been in dialogue with our European partners on for a while. It’s been a conversation we’ve been having for a while and will continue to have.”

Sunak argued the Horizon deal “demonstrates that our relationship with our European partners is positive, it’s constructive” and said he was able to “get things done for the interests of the UK.” He name-checked Horizon, agreements on illegal migration and ongoing conversations over electric vehicles as signs of progress in UK.-EU relations.

POLITICO reported on Thursday that Brussels is split over the new tariffs, raising hopes in London that there could be a resolution to the row before January.

European Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis sided with his British counterpart Kemi Badenoch and is trying to extend the deadline, while Brussels heavyweight Thierry Breton is pulling in the other direction.

There is also mounting pressure from EU member states with large auto industries, including Germany, to push back the deadline.

A German car lobbyist said “we know that the German ministry of economy is sending signals” to the EU about extending the deadline and avoiding the cliff edge.