brexit science

British science sector feeling the pain of Brexit uncertainty

Britain’s science sector is already suffering from the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, which also presents further risks for the wider economy according to a Parliamentary committee.

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee said in a report that peers found a “clear perception” that British scientists are facing discrimination in EU wide projects.

It also warned that doubts over future relations between UK and the rest of the EU face making the country less attractive for both scientists and investors.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd was attacked for her “deeply worrying” attitude towards student immigration and called for the number of people heading to Britain for study to be separated out from the overall net migration target.

The Home Secretary is looking at reforms to shake up an “immigration system that treats every student and university as equal” to make it harder for students on lower quality courses.

“In the light of the EU referendum, the need for Government action on this issue is all the more pressing and the Home Secretary’s speech deeply worrying,” the report said. “Whilst recognising that immigration is a highly politically charged issue, we would remind the Government that the public’s views on immigration are more nuanced than newspaper headlines might suggest.”

Peers warned the impact Brexit is having on the sector, which includes natural sciences, engineering, medicine, mathematics, social sciences and humanities could harm the economy.

“The prolonged delay in solid reassurances from the Government is having a corrosive effect on the UK science base and could consequently impact on the long-term health of the UK economy,” the report said.

The committee said there was little documented proof so far that scientists from the rest of the EU were choosing not to work in Britain following the vote for Brexit but found that “nervousness about immigration and nationality persists in the science community”.

Peers said that while there was a “scarcity of hard evidence” that British researchers in EU wide projects were being discriminated against, there was a “clear perception” it is happening and “perhaps in ways that will never be documented explicitly”.

The committee called for the Government to actively search out the world’s most accomplished scientists and persuade them to pursue careers in the UK.

Committee chairman Lord Selborne welcomed a funding increase announced in the Autumn Statement that will mean an extra £4.7bn for research and development funding over the next five years. 

He added: “The UK’s outstanding reputation and performance in the scientific world depends critically on redoubling efforts to persuade many of the world’s most talented scientists to pursue careers in this country. Our proposal to find global scientific leaders will help to tackle this and nurture the next generation of research leaders in the UK

“It is vital the UK is still seen as open to scientific talent; the Government has the ability to send this message to the scientific community enabling us to become world leaders after Brexit and beyond.”

Earlier this month is was reported that over £2.2bn of EU funding will have to be replaced from the UK budget if the research sector is to be protected from the financial fallout of Brexit. 

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