With both sides having conflicting opinions pre Brexit about the potential effect on the economy and vital areas like job growth in the United Kingdom in the event of a leave vote, the same conflicting opinion is being witnessed now concerning what may happen now within UK science.
The EU is responsible for 10% of the funding received by UK universities which amounts to circa a billion pounds a year but with the leave vote ongoing receipt of this money could now be in jeopardy. To be a full member of the funding body requires countries to allow free movement of people and of course a desire to limit immigration was one of the main arguments put forward by the Leave campaigners. Leading scientists express the view that the leave vote could now put at risk the work that the UK is renowned for and consequently this could have an impact on the economy.
During the campaign it had been suggested that the government may be in a position to replace any lost funding but the impact of the leave vote could have more far reaching consequences. It has been argued by leading scientists that the potential loss of important international connections would outweigh the replacement of any lost funding and have a major effect on the UK’s capacity to remain a leading player in the research field. So this point of view suggests that free movement needs to be a major part of the post-Brexit negotiations.
The flip side to this argument comes from the heads of notable players within the UK science field who are of the opinion that as the majority of the UK electorate had voted to leave, many of these people will have had the issue of free movement at the front of their minds, it should be remembered that the support of wider society will be needed to help UK science to flourish. This support may diminish if the industry is too forceful in its demands.
A points-based visa system has been suggested as an aid for Universities to be able to attract the right candidates, this works in other countries and is seen as a possible option, by leave campaigners, to alleviate any issues resulting from the removal of free movement.
Any future restriction on free movement could have an impact on the large number of EU citizens currently working within scientific research at our Universities. With this uncertainty expected to go on for a good while yet a call has been made for the Government to guarantee these people would be able to stay in the country which would give some form of continuity but is this a guarantee that is possible to give?
Further details regarding the effect of Brexit on science can be found by accessing the following article here.