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“Brexit is bad for science”

19/12/18

In a recent article for Science, reporter Erik Stokstad set out a clear case of why Brexit will damage science in the UK. In the academic community, tension amongst scientists over Brexit is growing in the face of the persisting chaos in Parliament.

Prime Minister, Theresa May, released a 585-page draft agreement on 14 November that was due to be voted on in Parliament on 11 December but was postponed at the last minute for fear that it wouldn’t be passed. The draft withdrawal agreement includes a $50 billion divorce bill and binds the UK to EU laws during the transition without a say in them.

The hefty draft agreement doesn’t specifically mention research, but it would mitigate disruptions to research whilst the UK’s participation in EU programmes is negotiated. UK-based researchers would still be able to apply for EU grants during this period. Nevertheless, Brexit is still damaging. It means an end to the free movement and uncertainty, at best, of the UK’s eligibility for EU research funding. A no-deal Brexit, which is dangerously looming, would immediately void many research agreements that rely on EU funding and collaborations.

Regardless of how Brexit goes ahead, it will damage UK science and innovation. A recession is widely feared which would jeopardise UK-funded research and could cause a brain drain. Indeed, with regard to the large Horizon Europe programme, the best we could hope for is to reposition ourselves as an associated member although this would mean losing any influence over the programme’s goals or agenda.

Perhaps the CDN’s Prof Oscar Marín put it best when he told Science that supply shortages were the least of his concerns: “To be honest, the disruption [caused by Brexit] will be of such an order that not having the right antibody will be meaningless”.