Brexit: MPs call for clear plan to protect science

In collaboration with the Press Association

A clear plan is needed in the lead up to Brexit to protect the UK’s strength in science, according to a group of MPs.

In a report published today, the MPs said that a plan was needed to address issues such as funding, people, collaboration, regulation and research facilities.

MPs sitting on the Science and Technology Committee called on Government to increase the amount of money the UK spends on science.

They also said it was essential that the UK continues to attract top-quality researchers. 

Professor Karen Vousden, Cancer Research UK’s chief scientist, said: “Scientific collaboration between the UK and countries in Europe and throughout the world speeds up those discoveries that save lives and benefit patients everywhere.  

“With the Autumn Statement fast approaching next week, we need a strong commitment from the Government to increase funding to show the world that science remains a priority in the UK" - Professor Karen Vousden, Cancer Research UK

“So we welcome the committee’s report published today and its recognition of the importance of researcher mobility. It’s in the best interests of all cancer patients to keep UK science strong, collaborative and competitive. 

“Research is vital if we’re to develop new and more effective ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. That's why it’s so crucial that science in the UK continues to thrive and that we’re able to work with the best scientists in the world to beat cancer sooner.

“With the Autumn Statement fast approaching next week, we need a strong commitment from the Government to increase funding to show the world that science remains a priority in the UK.”

Plans for how the UK will negotiate its exit from the EU are still underway. And the MPs said that the uncertainty around these plans meant that the Government needed to act quickly in setting out a vision for science.

The Committee also wants the new Department for Exiting the European Union to appoint a Chief Scientific Advisor. 

The concerns raised focus on 5 key issues:

  • funding, such as Horizon 2020
  • attracting people to work in the UK
  • collaboration across borders
  • regulations that allow research collaboration
  • access to EU research facilities in other countries

Committee Chair Stephen Metcalfe MP said: “Uncertainty over Brexit threatens to undermine some of the UK’s ongoing international scientific collaborations. 

“Telling EU scientists and researchers already working in the UK that they are allowed to stay is one way the Government could reduce that uncertainty right away. 

“The forthcoming Autumn Statement is a chance for the Government to demonstrate its commitment to making science and research a linchpin of our economy after Brexit and to place it at the heart of an emerging Industrial Strategy.”