Nobel-winning scientists issue stark Brexit warning

If the UK leaves the European Union in 2019 without the closest possible future ties, new blocks to scientif...

Posted: Oct 24, 2018 2:46 AM
Updated: Oct 24, 2018 2:46 AM

If the UK leaves the European Union in 2019 without the closest possible future ties, new blocks to scientific collaboration "will inhibit progress, to the detriment of us all," 29 European Nobel Prize-winning scientists have warned.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday, the group stated that for science to flourish it "requires the flow of people and ideas across borders to allow the rapid exchange of ideas, expertise and technology."

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"By deciding to leave the EU, the UK has given up its right to participate in EU research and innovation programs. It must now step up its commitment to those programs if it wants to remain involved," the letter said.

One of the signatories warned of a brain drain of the UK's top scientific talent if the country leaves the EU while severing as many ties as possible with the bloc in a so-called hard Brexit.

"A hard Brexit could cripple UK science and the government needs to sit up and listen," Paul Nurse, director of the Francis Crick Institute, Europe's biggest biomedical research laboratory, said in another statement.

"A hard Brexit raises the concern that there could be a significant loss of scientists from the UK, particularly the young scientific talent upon which the country's future will depend," he added.

"This will greatly diminish our ability to make scientific discoveries that will help our country prosper, and that means we will all suffer."

On Tuesday, the Francis Crick Institute, London's $845 million biomedical science center, also stated that half of its 1,050 staff said in a survey they would probably leave the UK after Brexit.

Ninety-seven percent of those polled believe a hard Brexit would be bad for science in the UK.

Several UK science leaders reacted to the Francis Crick Institute's survey amid growing alarm in Britain's laboratories surrounding the country's EU departure.

"Immunology, like other cutting-edge areas of biomedical science, is a global discipline and one in which the UK excels," said Peter Openshaw, president of the British Society for Immunology.

"We currently rank first amongst the G7 nations for our research in immunity and infectious disease and are now starting to reap the benefits of our efforts, with new treatments for previously incurable diseases emerging after decades of investment and collaboration in immunological research."

Openshaw said this has been achieved by the UK's open-door policy for scientific talent from the EU and the rest of the world.

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