Uni­ver­si­ties needn’t fear a no-deal Brexit

The Guardian - Journal - - Letters -

In their po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion, the Rus­sell Group and other uni­ver­sity or­gan­i­sa­tions are confusing the con­sti­tu­tion­ally dam­ag­ing with­drawal agree­ment, which must be voted down, with the fu­ture part­ner­ship, which is yet to be agreed (Uni­ver­si­ties sec­tor fears ‘big­gest threat’ of no-deal exit, 4 Jan­uary). Bri­tish uni­ver­si­ties are the strong­est and most at­trac­tive in Europe. With a clean sovereign Brexit, Bri­tish uni­ver­si­ties get the best of both worlds. They es­cape the Euro­pean com­mis­sion’s shack­les im­posed through the with­drawal agree­ment and, like other suc­cess­ful third-party coun­tries (Is­rael, Nor­way and Switzer­land, for ex­am­ple), can par­tic­i­pate in EU pro­grammes like Hori­zon 2020 at will.

Now is the mo­ment to tell the EU that the UK will be a close part­ner in aca­demic re­search in the same way as 15 non-EU na­tion states are at present and that the UK will pay its way, as we did be­fore. This is a win-win sit­u­a­tion which does not re­quire the UK to sur­ren­der sovereignty or ac­cept de­struc­tive con­di­tions.

The idea that whole coun­tries should be forced into po­lit­i­cal servi­tude in or­der to qual­ify for aca­demic or sci­en­tific mu­tual ex­change is ridicu­lous, il­log­i­cal and com­pletely with­out ev­i­dence. No coun­try has ever had to ac­cept this from the EU be­fore. The first ma­jor act of the May gov­ern­ment was to pledge to sup­port a Swiss-style pay­ment into mu­tual aca­demic re­search pro­grammes, which an­swers the Rus­sell Group’s fund­ing com­plaints. In con­tent and tim­ing, the uni­ver­sity or­gan­i­sa­tions’ let­ter to MPs has “Project Fear” Mark IV’s fin­ger­prints all over it. It should be seen for what it is and ig­nored.

Baroness Deech , Prof Nigel Big­gar

Uni­ver­sity of Ox­ford, Dr Philip Cun­liffe Uni­ver­sity of Kent, Prof Angus

Dal­gleish St George’s, Uni­ver­sity of Lon­don, Dr Gra­ham Gud­gin Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge, Prof Ru­dolf Hanka

Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge and 10 oth­ers

(see gu.com/let­ters for full list)

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