‘Sig­nif­i­cant is­sues’ with no-deal Brexit – min­is­ter

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - News - DAVID WIL­COCK & CLAIRE HAY­HURST [email protected]­erndai­ly­press.co.uk

UNIVER­SITY lead­ers were right to warn of the po­ten­tial dam­age that a no-deal Brexit could cause to vi­tal re­search, a min­is­ter has said.

The Gov­ern­ment has made big fund­ing com­mit­ments but “sig­nif­i­cant is­sues” would re­main if the UK left without a with­drawal agree­ment, uni­ver­si­ties and science min­is­ter Chris Skid­more said.

The West MP spoke on a visit to Bris­tol the day af­ter groups rep­re­sent­ing more than 150 higher ed­u­ca­tion cen­tres across the UK wrote to MPs warn­ing that a no-deal Brexit could lead to “an aca­demic, cul­tural and sci­en­tific set­back from which it would take decades to re­cover”.

The let­ter, signed by the heads of Uni­ver­si­ties UK, the Rus­sell Group, Guild HE, Mil­lion Plus and Univer­sity Al­liance, warned that 50,000 staff and 130,000 stu­dents from EU states are fac­ing “sig­nif­i­cant uncer­tainty about their fu­tures”.

The Rus­sell Group of lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties also re­vealed on Thurs­day that the num­ber of EU stu­dents en­rolling in the lead­ing UK in­sti­tu­tions in the 2018-19 aca­demic year fell 3 per cent from the pre­vi­ous year.

Kingswood MP Mr Skid­more said: “I think that univer­sity heads are right to em­pha­sise the fact that there are sig­nif­i­cant is­sues with a no-deal Brexit.”

He backed the Prime Min­is­ter’s deal with Brus­sels, say­ing it “set out a clear road map for con­tin­ued col­lab­o­ra­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion with our Euro­pean neigh­bours”.

He con­tin­ued: “At the same time, the Gov­ern­ment is pre­pared for no deal.

“I’ve been work­ing as the no-deal min­is­ter in my de­part­ment, both in terms of univer­sity fund­ing in terms of Eras­mus but also in terms of those sci­en­tific re­search pro­grammes such as Hori­zon 2020 and the fu­ture of what hap­pens go­ing for­ward.

“We’ve made big com­mit­ments on the re­search front within uni­versi- ties, we’ve made a com­mit­ment to 2.4 per cent of our GDP be­ing spent on re­search and we need to main­tain that go­ing for­ward.”

Univer­sity chiefs on Thurs­day said rev­o­lu­tion­ary can­cer treat­ments and anti-cli­mate change tech­nol­ogy were among UK-led re­search that would be “com­pro­mised” by a no-deal Brexit.

Pro­fes­sor Dame Janet Beer, the pres­i­dent of Uni­ver­si­ties UK, warned that “world-lead­ing aca­demics and re­searchers” might quit the UK for coun­tries with ac­cess to EU fund­ing pro­grammes – or avoid com­ing here – without re­as­sur­ances about re­plac­ing cash streams.

She said: “We are home to one of the best re­search sys­tems in the world, at­trac­tive to stel­lar aca­demics, top stu­dents and global part­ner­ships, and we must not let this be com­pro­mised by a no-deal Brexit.

“Time is run­ning out to make de­ci­sions on is­sues which will ul­ti­mately af­fect the coun­try and so­ci­ety as a whole.”

In the let­ter, the aca­demics say an in­dus­try that con­trib­utes more than £21 bil­lion to the UK’s GDP ev­ery year would be badly hit by a no-deal Brexit.

They add: “Vi­tal re­search links will be com­pro­mised, from new can­cer treat­ments to tech­nolo­gies com­bat­ing cli­mate change.

“The valu­able ex­change of stu­dents, staff and knowl­edge would be se­ri­ously dam­aged.

“And we share the con­cerns of busi­ness about the im­pact of no deal on ev­ery­thing from sup­ply chains to se­cu­rity and travel.

“It is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to sug­gest that this would be an aca­demic, cul­tural and sci­en­tific set­back from which it would take decades to re­cover.”

Speak­ing on Thurs­day, be­fore Mr Skid­more’s com­ments, a Gov­ern­ment spokes­woman said: “Science recog­nises no bor­ders and the UK has a proud record of wel­com­ing the world’s lead­ing sci­en­tists and re­searchers to work and study here. This will not change when we leave the EU.”

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