Brexit uncertainty risks research brain drain, MPs warn

MPs say the Government must mitigate the impact of Brexit on UK research
MPs say the Government must mitigate the impact of Brexit on UK research
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The Government must tell European researchers they can stay in the UK or risk triggering a post-Brexit brain-drain, MPs have warned.

Ministers must also offer further guarantees to incoming workers, to help maintain the UK’s reputation as an international research hub.

The recommendations, published today, follow months of debate about the impact of June’s Brexit vote on the country’s universities.

But while the Treasury has offered some assurances over research funding, Parliament’s Science and Technology committee says it is vital to provide certainty to staff.

According to committee chairman Stephen Metcalfe the anxiety created by Brexit is threatening to undermine ongoing scientific collaborations.

He said telling resarchers already working in the UK that they are allowed to stay “is one way the Government could reduce that uncertainty right away”.

“The Government has provided some helpful and welcome short-term reassurances for the science community... but it needs to do more to make sure its message gets through,” he said.

“The concerns and needs of our world class research establishments and scientists working in the UK must be heard at the negotiating table.”

According to the new report, there are currently 31,000 EU citizens working in research and academia in the UK.

Since 2007 British research institutions have benefitted from well over £8.8bn in EU funding.

A range of universities gave evidence to the committee for its inquiry into the impact of the Brexit vote, including Leeds, Sheffield and Hull.

Hull reported that several staff members are considering moves from the UK, while Leeds said it was aware of “a significant number of instances” where staff were advised the UK is seen as a risky partner for bids.

The Government has already attempted to provide some certainty for the sector by promising to underwrite the latest round of EU funding allocations.

But the committee calls for a longer-term pledge from ministers to raise science expenditure as a percentage of GDP.

It says next week’s Autumn Statement is a chance for them “to demonstrate [a] commitment to making science and research a linchpin of our economy after Brexit.”