‘Significant issues’ with no-deal Brexit – minister
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.”