A Brexit disaster warning has been issued by 150 scientists, including Stephen Hawking, in a letter sent to The Times newspaper, while UKIP said leaving the European Union would be better for the future of British science, and accused the scientists – all of them fellows of the Royal Society – of ‘scaremongering’.
According to the letter, Brexit would spell the end of talent coming from aboard into Britain. The scientists say that if we left the EU, the UK would cease to be a major hub in the world of science.
On 23rd June, Britons will vote in a national referendum. They will decide whether to remain in the European Union or leave. Brexit stands for Britain Exiting the EU.
UKIP argues that Britain pays in €30.27 billion more to the EU than it gets back. That is bad for the country. It would be easier to increase science spending if the country left the EU (it would have over 30 billion extra cash), it adds.
EU sends many scientists to UK
A large number of talented young scientists come to Britain from the UK, the letter explains.
The scientists wrote:
“We now recruit many of our best researchers from continental Europe, including younger ones who have obtained EU grants and have chosen to move with them here.”
“Being able to attract and fund the most talented Europeans assures the future of British science and also encourages the best scientists elsewhere to come here.”
They insist that Britain’s economy plus its scientific community have benefitted enormously from EU funding.
UKIP says that Britain pays in €77.77 billion to the EU, and only gets back €47.5 billion, leaving a deficit of €30.27 billion – this is neither good for the economy nor the country’s science, it adds.
The figures above refer just to science funding. The pro-EU scientists pointed out that Britain gets more funding from the EU than it contributes to the EU. UKIP says that both figures are so insignificant compared to what the UK spends on its own science funding, that the argument is irrelevant.
By leaving the EU, Britain would have more than thirty-billion euros spare, some of which could be targeted for scientific research.
Scientists say Switzerland suffers
The 150 scientists claim that Swiss science loses out because the country is not in the EU. Switzerland contributes money to EU science funding but gets very little back. It also finds it hard to attract talent from the continent because of freedom of movement restrictions.
Regarding freedom of movement, the letter said:
“If the UK leaves the EU and there is a loss of freedom of movement of scientists between the UK and Europe, it will be a disaster for UK science and universities.”
“Investment in science is as important for the long-term prosperity and security of the UK as investment in infrastructure projects, farming or manufacturing; and the free movement of scientists is as important for science as free trade is for market economics.”
A letter signed by Stephen Hawking and 150 scientists, all of them fellows of the Royal Society, including several Nobel laureates, warn that leaving the EU would be bad for British science. (Image: Facebook)
The letter was organised by Sir Alan Fersht, a chemist at the Laboratory of Molexular Biology and an Emeritus Professor at Cambridge University’s Dept. of Chemistry.
Brexit a boost for UK science UKIP insists
Dr. Julia Reid MEP (Member of the European Parliament), UKIP’s official science spokesperson, accused the scientists of scaremongering.
Dr. Reid said regarding their letter to The Times:
“This is a facile argument because long before the UK joined the Common Market, and before the implementation the of EU’s Single Market policy, there was always free movement of scientists throughout Europe and the world.”
“If anything the UK’s current immigration policy, driven by the large numbers of EU citizens coming from Eastern Europe, mean that we discriminate against the young talented scientists who wish to come to the UK from the rest of the world.”
“I am astonished at the content of this letter that has appeared in The Times. Clearly, these academics fail to recognise that the EU is a failed experiment.”
Dr. Reid said EU bureaucracy is bad for British science and quoted Professor Angus Dalgleish, a world leader in cancer research, who complained that the European Union’s Clinical Trials Directive significantly raised the costs of his cancer research – in fact, by a factor of 10 – which meant he had to halt most of it.
According to Prof. Dalgleish, the EU has been the kiss of death for academic clinical trials throughout the UK.
Dr. Reid said:
“Scientific and medical research in the UK is the envy of the world. Seven out of the top ten European Universities are in the UK, four of which are in the top five. It is our research and academic excellence which will attract investment in scientific research to the UK and not the fact that we are part of a failing political union.”
“If we look at the global picture it becomes clear that in the modern world the leading centre of research is not the EU but elsewhere, primarily the United States and China, and remaining a member of the EU, far from enhancing our ability, in fact restricts it. You only have to look at the scientific research published in 2014 to see that the lions share comes from the US and China with the UK third.”
Throughout history, the UK has always collaborated with leading researchers and academic institutions across the world, and will continue doing so with much more vigour when free of EU bureaucracy and regulations, which stifle the nation’s science, Dr. Reid claimed.
Dr. Reid added:
“It is time to leave the EU and by doing so British Scientists will once again become true global pioneers.”
Please consider science, Royal Society asks voters
Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, the Royal Society’s President, said:
“The outcome of the UK’s referendum on EU membership is an important issue for the UK. Of course science will only be one of many things people have on their minds when they cast their vote.”
“However, we would like to encourage them to factor it in as a consideration in this debate. Scientific research affects our daily lives and the long term growth of our economy, and brings many benefits to society in health, energy, food and the environment, to name but a few key areas.”
Sir Paul Nurse says UK science needs EU
Sir Paul Nurse, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2001, said in February that UK science needs the European Union. He warned that Brexit would be detrimental for British scientists.
Sir Paul said that politicians who are currently campaigning for Brexit are opportunists whose tactics will cost our country’s scientists dearly. Opportunists exploit situations and do not care how their behavior might affect people.
Sir Paul, who is currently Director of The Francis Crick Institute, and was once President of the Royal Society, believes UK scientists would find it much harder to get research and development funding after a Brexit.
If Britons vote to leave the EU, the move would ‘sell future generations short,’ Sir Paul said.
Sir Paul said:
“We need a vision for our future that is ambitious and not to run away and bury our heads in the sand, and we can best do this by staying in the EU. We should not be side-tracked by short-term political opportunism.”
“Being in the EU gives us access to ideas, people and to investment in science. That, combined with mobility (of EU scientists), gives us increased collaboration, increased transfer of people, ideas and science – all of which history has shown us drives science.”
‘Scientists for Britain’ backs Brexit
Scientists for Britain – a UK pro-Brexit group – urges voters, especially scientists, to free themselves from the misconception that Britain’s scientific community is less robust and solid than it really is.
Britain has always been up there among the top five leading global players in the world of science, the group says.
On its website, Scientists for Britain writes:
“Indeed, a recent UK Government funding document found that the UK produced around 15.1% of the world’s most highly-cited (or regarded) scientific papers. From these figures, there is no doubt that our industrious and talented scientists punch way above their weight when it comes to global science – hardly a position of weakness.”
Video – EU referendum debate
An EU Referendum debate with Nigel Farage (head of UKIP) and Anna Soubry (business minister).