The commission had argued that it should be restricted to EU members due to its “global strategic importance”.
France, whose commissioner Thierry Breton spearheaded the plan, was in favour of the move.
However, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Poland, the Netherlands and the Baltic states were against the commission proposal. Those countries together would comfortably block any ban if it was put to a vote.
“You can’t just put the UK in the same box as Iran or China,” an EU diplomat said.
The UK negotiated associate membership of the Horizon programme, which partners companies and universities, in last year’s Brexit talks.
Britain is one of more than a dozen fee-paying non-EU countries that plan to take part in the seven-year funding programme, which issues grants.
Brussels is pursuing a “strategic autonomy” policy, designed to bolster the bloc’s ability to defend itself from competition from the US and China.
The news of the proposed ban appalled European universities when it broke at the end of March. “The latest proposal by the European Commission to exclude long-standing and trustful partner countries … is not in the interest of Europe’s research community nor the wider society,” the Eurotech Universities Alliance said at the time.