The Scottish-born winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for chemistry has entered the immigration debate saying Brexit could put the UK’s reputation a as “science superpower” at risk.
Professor Sir James Fraser Stoddart, who was born in Edinburgh, and is now a naturalised American citizen who teaches at Northwestern University in Illinois, said “the resounding message that should go out all around the world is that science is global.”
Sir Fraser, who shared the prize for work on molecular machines with two fellow scientists from France and the Netherlands, also said the US “is what is today because of open borders.”
Sir Fraser is one of the six US Nobel Prize winner who are immigrants.
“I’m all for movement of all of the people in the system ... open doors, open policy. If you have this, it’s total magic in the academic world. The days of it being done in countries on their own is over. It’s finished,” he said.
He also raised the implications of the Brexit vote saying that currently UK research institutions can recruit staff from across the EU, a total of 745 million people, but that this could change.
He said: “Today I am distressed by the fact that the UK is looking at a situation that would cut off that supply. This is not good news for scientists in the UK and I would hope that this whole business of Brexit would either go away or just did not happen because this is not good for science.
“Science is a global pursuit, it must allow people to come and go across different cultures from different countries. It’s not about money, it’s about people.
“It puts British science in jeopardy and I would not be surprised to see the most able scientists in the country leave.”
“If the worst comes to pass, overnight, they will be shut down. ... The situation is just going to catastrophic.”
He also said Donald Trump’s vow to build a wall to stop people entering the US from Mexico left him “totally speechless.”