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Mission: Impossible—Horizon Europe

Ivory Tower: The summer blockbuster that has us on the edge of our seats

1. Int. An up-market restaurant in Brussels
Special agent George Freeman is dining alone

Waiter: Monsieur, votre entrée speciale ce soir, œufs au plat et les pommes de terre sautées en tranches.

Freeman: But I asked for egg and chips?

Waiter: Voilà, Monsieur.

[The waiter leaves a dish covered by a silver cloche. Freeman nervously lifts the dome to find a tape recorder playing a message.]

Voice: Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to finalise association with the Horizon Europe R&D programme for the United Kingdom. Computer simulations suggest that your best bet is to sneak into the Berlaymont building unobserved and sign the bit of paper when no one is looking. To save time, your team has been chosen for you: agents Donelan and Scully. As always, should you or any member of your team be caught on camera being civil to Europeans, the government will disavow any knowledge of your actions and hang you out to dry with the Mail and Telegraph. This message will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, George.

[Freeman replaces the cloche. There is a small explosion and smoke leaks out from under the dome.]

Waiter: Your egg and chip is not to your liking, sir?

Freeman: No HP sauce. Excuse me, I have to go.

Waiter: But sir, what about your Eton Mess?

Freeman: That’s what I’m trying to clean up. I went to Radley College.

Titles and music

2. Ext. Outside the restaurant
Agents Donelan and Scully are waiting in the back of a black transit van. The van is full of hi-tech surveillance kit. Freeman gets in and closes the sliding door.

Freeman: Michelle, Paul, good to see you.

Donelan: I’m not happy about this.

Freeman: Association with Europe? I wish there was another way.

Donelan: No, I mean you getting the recorded message. I’m the secretary of state.

Freeman: But I’m the science minister.

Donelan: Again.

Scully: Look, don’t argue, I couldn’t even be nominated to run as Mayor of London.

Donelan: You did promise to scrap Ulez.

Scully: Turns out to be a popular policy.

Freeman: Not a good look for a science minister, though.

Donelan: Aren’t you literally the minister for London?

Scully: If you are all going to be like that, then I’m going back to the business department.

Freeman: Sorry, we need your help, Paul.

Donelan: Plus, you are the tech minister, you are the only one who knows how any of this stuff works.

Scully: I’ve no idea. I just borrowed the keys from the Whitehall carpool. I think this is actually a TV detector van.

Freeman: Why does it say on the side, “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest”?

Scully: I think it’s used for outside broadcasts to vet the Question Time audience.

Freeman: I need to know how to get inside the European Commission.

Donelan: You can get an Irish passport, no?

Scully: I’ve got a plan. We use this 3D printer to make a lifelike mask of Ursula von der Leyen. Michelle enters wearing the mask and using this ID lanyard left over from when Boris was the Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent. George enters via a window in a toilet block that hasn’t been able to shut since Nigel Farage was an MEP and used it to have a crafty cigarette when skiving off meetings. You both meet in the Chefs de Cabinet conference room and sign this pre-prepared agreement. Take a selfie and get out via the kitchen bins.

Donelan: Wouldn’t it be easier just to pay the association fee the EU wants?

Scully: There’s no money left, so we’re on a budget. This way we can guarantee value for money for the British taxpayer.

Freeman [reading the agreement]: “We, the European Union, agree to give Great Britain (a science superpower) and His Majesty’s royal boffins loads of money to cure diseases and stuff, and in return all we want is a jar of marmalade and a box of PG Tips. PS: Rishi Sunak is great, simply the best, and definitely did not write this.” Paul, who wrote this?

Scully: Dunno, it came anonymously in the post with this 10 quid bottle of House of Commons wine and a Ready for Rishi T-shirt.

3. Ext. The Berlaymont building, Brussels
We cut between Freeman on the roof, Donelan in a mask and Scully in the van.

Scully: OK, I’ve got eyes on you both.

Freeman: You mean, we are on a three-way WhatsApp call.

Scully: I told you about the budget. Are you ready to go, George?

Freeman: I’m not sure about this toilet window. Are you certain Nigel Farage used to climb through it?

Scully: No, he used to smoke through it.

Freeman: Well, unless you have a device in the van that will dematerialise me and reassemble my atoms on the other side, then I’m not going through there.

Scully: Do you have a plan B?

Freeman: How many times do I have to go through this? The Treasury won’t spend the money on Plan B while we are still in negotiation with the EU and… Oh, hold on, there is a door open here on the fire escape, I’m going in.

Donelan: This is ridiculous.

Scully: What’s ridiculous about posing as the president of the European Commission wearing a dodgy prosthetic?

Donelan: This is the most ridiculous thing to happen here since they put Roy Jenkins in charge.

Freeman: I’ll be in the conference room in 5 minutes, everyone keeps nodding at me, thinking I’m a bearded Steve McFadden off EastEnders. This free movement thing is great.

Donelan: I’m in. Looks like Bozza’s press pass still works.

Scully: Pity his journalism doesn’t.

Freeman: I’m just getting into the lift. Oh no, it’s outgoing research commissioner Mariya Gabriel. What if she recognises me?

Gabriel: Floor two, please… Excuse me, don’t I know you?

Freeman: Err… don’t think so.

Gabriel: I meet so many people, so many committees, so many countries wanting to associate with Horizon Europe. Are you one of the New Zealanders?

Freeman: New Zealand are in? New bloody Zealand! Seriously?

Gabriel: Wait, I know who you are.

Freeman: Crumbs.

Gabriel: You are English.

Freeman: I’m in trouble now.

Gabriel: You are that actor off EastEnders. I really love that show. The beard suits you.

Freeman: Thanks, this is my floor, bye.

Scully: That was too close.

Donelan: I’m in the conference room. Where are you, George?

Freeman: I’m just here…

4. Int. The Chefs de Cabinet conference room
Freeman rushes in waving his mobile phone and the draft agreement.

Freeman: Let’s get this selfie done and… prime minister, what are you doing here?

Sunak: Hand over the paper, George, and no one will get hurt.

Freeman: It’s been you all along, pretending to support association in public while blocking progress behind the scenes.

Donelan: Haven’t you seen one of these films before, George? The boss guy is always the baddie.

Freeman: Who are you working for? Are you with the KGB?

Sunak: No, the Treasury. I can’t help it. Once you’re in, you can never leave.

Freeman: And you too, Michelle, weren’t you once a treasury minister?

Donelan: Hard to believe, but yes.

Freeman: Scully are you part of this too?

Scully: No, like the audience I’m totally confused now.

Freeman: Let me think… Why don’t I take a photograph of lying Rishi with fake Ursula signing the fake agreement and then we all head for the Nigel Farage fire escape. Scully drives us through the Channel tunnel, hidden under boxes of reasonably priced red wine and camembert. We’ll send the pics to some friendly press and pop up at St Pancras to headlines claiming a good deal for science and a good deal for the taxpayer.

Sunak: That works.

Freeman: Say cheese.

Sunak and Donelan: Camembert.

Freeman: Let’s go.

Action montage with theme music as the team escape back to London.

5. Ext. Outside St Pancras International station, London

Sunak: Good to be back in Blighty.

Donelan: Someone check the Evening Standard to see if the plan worked.

Scully: Oh dear, look at this.

Freeman: “Bearded EastEnders star seen running away from Brussels HQ through well-known smoker’s exit. McFadden denies Euro soap merger talks. BBC bosses start immediate investigation.”

Donelan: Doesn’t look like this story is over yet.

Freeman: Do you think we’ll get a sequel?

Sunak: Not if those by-election results are anything to go by.

The camera pans out across a busy station.

Titles and music

The Conservatives will return in Mission: Impossible—General Election.

Membership of a cross-border R&D programme will likely not be returning this summer.

Terms of use: this is a free email for fun on the last day of term. It should be shared widely like the details of customer accounts at a private bank. Want to buy a raffle ticket for a signed House of Commons bottle of wine and a Ready for Rishi T-Shirt (all proceeds to local school IT equipment)? Want to say hello? Email ivorytower@researchresearch.com

Ivory Tower will return on 8 September. Have a relaxing summer wherever you are.