Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom Brexit statement.

Since the announcement of the Brexit referendum, the Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom (CERU/SRUK, https://www.sruk.org.uk/) has actively alerted to the dangers that Brexit poses to the scientific excellence of the UK [1]. By means of several surveys answered by Spanish researchers in the UK and abroad, we have assessed its already deleterious impact on the attractiveness of the UK to researchers and, crucially, on the increasing uncertainty to the professional and personal lives of Spanish researchers and students already working in the UK. Building on this evidence, we have vigorously been communicating the damage that Brexit could cause to the UK’s science and innovation sector, and putting forward constructive measures to mitigate such damage. We have engaged in submissions to and debates at the Science and Technology Selected Committee of the House of Commons [1], written articles in journals, and have contacted other institutions, including Russell Group, Universities UK, and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Like numerous other institutions, including learned societies, universities and funders, we are dismayed that the consistent evidence and warnings about brexit provided by the UK’s science, research and technology sector has been mostly disregarded. The UK’s science and technology sector has consistently received worldwide recognition for its excellence and it is crucial to the competitiveness of the country. With just a couple of weeks before the Brexit date, it beggars belief the dreadful amount of uncertainty affecting the scientific community. Even more, the not-ruled-out option of a no-deal Brexit threatens to collapse a system heavily dependent on researchers, collaborations and funds from the EU. Clarity is urgently needed if further harm is to be avoided.

Since the outcome of the referendum, the UK has already experienced several worrying, undesirable effects of Brexit on the scientific and R&D sectors. Among them, the relocation of the European Medicines Agency or the withdrawal of the UK from the EU-funded Galileo Project are particularly remarkable. The detrimental effect of the uncertain situation is also worsening the scientific relationships between the UK and Spain. Students seeking to attend British Universities through the Erasmus program have already been recommended to change their destinations, due to the fear of the Brexit outcome [2]. This fact outlines a concerning trend that was reported by the Russell Group in their recent report [3], where they warned about a fall EU students enrolment in British universities. Moreover, the UK faces an outstanding challenge to maintain its place as a leader in research and innovation due to both the loss of access to EU funding from the oncoming Horizon Europe programme and the decay in attractiveness, which may prevent EU scientists from coming to, or collaborating with, the UK in the future. These unfortunate havocs in scientific collaboration are bound to profoundly weaken the R&D sector in the UK and unfortunately are likely to keep spreading due to the Brexit uncertainty.

As a result, from SRUK we strongly condemn the current position of the British government that considers no-deal a viable outcome, and urgently ask to ensure a Brexit outcome that respects the needs of the scientific community, based on international collaboration and dynamic mobility between countries. Both the UK and the EU would undoubtedly obtain a mutual benefit if their level of scientific collaborations is fostered to augment, departing from the current EU framework Horizon 2020. Nevertheless, so far the interests of the Brexit negotiations seem to neglect the basic needs of the whole scientific community, who impatiently requires stability and international long-term allies to succeed in their projects.

LINKS:

[1] Website of the Department of Science Policy at SRUK: https://sruk.org.uk/initiatives/science-policy/brexit/

[2] News about Erasmus students
https://elpais.com/sociedad/2019/02/22/actualidad/1550869862_853933.html
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/feb/04/norway-students-uk-universities-brexit-warning

[3] Article of the Russell Group- Fall in EU student numbers
https://russellgroup.ac.uk/news/fall-in-eu-student-numbers/

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