Hard Brexit could ‘cripple UK science’, Francis Crick Institute warns

Pharma reacts to Brexit vote delay
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UK biomedical research lab, The Francis Crick Institute, has warned that a hard or ‘no deal’ Brexit could cripple UK science.

A survey of over 1,000 staff revealed that 97% of scientists believe a hard Brexit would be bad for UK science.

As the results are released, 29 Nobel Prize winning scientists from across Europe have written to UK Prime Minister Theresa May and EU President Jean-Claude Juncker urging the ‘closest possible cooperation between the UK and the EU’ after Brexit to preserve vital scientific research.

The signatories include Crick Director Paul Nurse and the letter is led by Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society.

Concerns about Brexit are very high at the Crick, with only 10% of scientists feeling confident in the future of UK science.

Only 4% think that the government is committed to getting a good deal for science while only 3% think the scientific community is being listened to.

Mr Nurse says: “This survey reveals the depth of feeling amongst scientists that a hard Brexit will seriously damage UK research, and that the government is not paying enough attention to science in the Brexit negotiations.

“Science and research matter for the UK’s economic growth, for the nation’s health and quality of life, and for the environment.

“The overwhelming negativity of scientists towards a hard Brexit should be a wake-up call to the country and the government. A hard Brexit could cripple UK science and the government needs to sit up and listen.

“We need a deal that replaces the science funding lost because of Brexit, that preserves freedom of movement for talented scientists, and that makes them feel welcome in this country.”

Because of Brexit, many Crick scientists are now significantly less likely to remain in the UK when they look for their next role

The £650 million Crick Institute represents significant government investment in UK science, and is the largest biomedical research facility under one roof in Europe.

One of the Crick’s key aims is to act as a beacon for the best scientific talent from the UK and the rest of the world. It attracts leading scientists to the UK with the objective that many of them will eventually take their skills to other British institutions.

However, the survey suggests that because of Brexit, many Crick scientists are now significantly less likely to remain in the UK when they look for their next role.

Half of the Crick’s scientists are less likely to stay in the UK when they leave the institute (25% much less likely, 26% less likely), and only 7% are confident that the UK will continue to attract top scientific talent.

“A hard Brexit raises the concern that there could be a significant loss of scientists from the UK, particularly the young scientific talent upon which the country’s future will depend,” says Mr Nurse.

“This will greatly diminish our ability to make scientific discoveries that will help our country prosper, and that means we will all suffer.”