6 Jul 2016
Since the news broke on Friday 23 June that the UK has voted to leave the EU, many people have been asking ‘what happens next?’ not least the UK’s science and business communities who have raised questions about whether they will continue to have the same access to EU funding and skilled employees from the EU in the future.
SCI members represent a broad section of the scientific community and we were pleased to be able to invite several of our community to hear and contribute to the discussions at Parliamentary Links Day 2016, held on 28 June and organised by Stephen Benn, Director of Parliamentary Affairs at the Royal Society of Biology.
With a headline topic of Science After the Referendum: What Next? it was clear from the outset that the agenda would be very much focussed towards the events of the past few days. The meeting comprised opening addresses from John Bercow, Jo Johnson and Nicola Blackwood followed by panel discussions included members of the scientific community.
The talks from all speakers made clear their shock and disappointment at the “out” vote, however there was also a very strong message that the community must pull together to look forward with optimism and unity of voice to ensure that science funding and open collaboration worldwide is safe guarded regardless of the UK’s status in the EU. In talks and questions the clear message was that the UK must continue to educate, attract and retain world class scientists across all fields from all parts of the world was also strongly noted.
On the subject of continued access to EU funding, the audience were reminded that currently, there are no legal changes to the status of UK applicants applying for EU funding, nor are there any changes to the residency status of EU nationals in the UK.
Jo Johnson MP also took the opportunity to confirm that EU students who are eligible under current rules to receive loans and grants from the Student Loans Company will continue to do so for courses they are currently enrolled on or about to start this coming year1.
The importance of continued collaboration both in the EU and beyond was emphasised and Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, encouraged all societies represented to take the opportunity to reaffirm their international links and collaborations. She also urged the scientific community to consider how they can support plans to welcome and bring outstanding scientists to the UK.
SCI Member, Harry Swan, asked the panel to comment on the impact for SME’s both in terms of Horizon 2020 funding and in reference to the access to networks with big business that this programme brings. Nicola Blackwood urged the audience to consider that Switzerland has been given access to Horizon 2020 benefits and therefore that there may be another way forward with this specific programme, however she also acknowledged that there may be a period of suspended activity whilst the rules are worked out.
In summary of the day Stephen Metcalfe MP concluded that amongst the feelings of surprise, shock and uncertainty the UK must find strength in the relationship between the scientific community and the Government, and must use this to promote a positive way forward.
- Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 28 June 2016 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/statement-on-higher-education-and-research-following-the-eu-referendum