Brexit would hurt funding, jobs and innovation, say scientists

Thousands of scientists have joined forces to call for the UK to remain in the European Union, warning that billions of pounds of research funding are at stake.
Jeremy Corbyn and Michael Gove appeared on the Andrew Marr Show to discuss the EU. Picture: Getty ImagesJeremy Corbyn and Michael Gove appeared on the Andrew Marr Show to discuss the EU. Picture: Getty Images
Jeremy Corbyn and Michael Gove appeared on the Andrew Marr Show to discuss the EU. Picture: Getty Images

More than 200 scientists based in Scotland have put their names to a letter backed by thousands of researchers and academics across the UK, arguing that science would be hampered by barriers and red tape outside the EU.

In Scotland alone, almost £1 billion of EU investment in science could be lost if Britain votes in favour of Brexit in three days’ time, the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign has warned.

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Highlighting the weight of expert opinion on the Remain side, ten Nobel laureates in economics argue that the economic case is “clearly in favour of remaining in the EU”.

Among the signatories is Dame Anne Glover, the first ever chief scientific officer for Scotland, who warns that leaving the EU would “condemn future generations to impoverished obscurity” by cutting off funding for science, engineering and technology.

Professor Sir Harry Burns, former chief medical officer for Scotland, has also backed the Remain campaign, warning that “retreating behind our borders solves nothing”.

He said: “The challenges facing humanity in the next century are profound. Solidarity, as we seek to solve climate change, hunger, conflict and inequality will be essential.

“We need to influence the EU from within to build solutions for the future.”

The Remain campaign said just under £1bn of research funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme was expected over the next four years, on top of more than £200 million already received. The fund supports thousands of research projects across areas from agriculture and forestry to space technology.

The letter, signed by 3,414 scientists across the country, states that for the UK to remain a world-leading scientific power “we must be team players”.

It says: “The EU leads the world in science output, is beating the US in science growth – and is rapidly increasing investment in research. The EU is a science superpower.”

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Being part of a pan-European science funding system reduces bureaucracy and increases collaboration between researchers, it continues, adding: “If we leave the EU, the UK will lose its driving seat in this world-leading team. Free flow of talent and easy collaboration would likely be replaced by uncertainty, capital flight, market barriers and costly domestic red tape. This would stifle our science, innovation and jobs.

“It is no surprise that a recent survey showed 93 per cent of research scientists and engineers saying the EU is a ‘major benefit’ to UK research. The surprise is that many voters are still unaware that UK science and its benefits would be demoted by a vote to leave.”

John Edward, senior campaign spokesperson for Scotland Stronger In Europe, said: “The choice in this referendum comes down to who you trust – the experts and academics, or the politicians leading the Leave campaign. I hope voters will think carefully about the long-term impact of their decision, because there is no going back.”

Meanwhile, Michael Gove, the co-convener of the Leave campaign, yesterday admitted there would be risks to leaving the EU, but said Britain would be able to deal with “whatever the world throws at us”.

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Gove rejected the idea that leaving the EU would be a gamble, claiming Brexit would be an opportunity for the UK to establish itself as a “progressive beacon to the world”.

He said: “I wouldn’t use the word ‘gamble’. Whether we vote to leave or remain there are risks to our future, there are challenges in the global economy.

“My view is that those challenges will be easier to meet, those risks will be less if we vote to leave because we will have control of the economic levers, we will have control over money we send to the European Union, we will have control over our own laws, and as a result we will be able to deal with whatever the world throws at us.”

Also on the programme was Jeremy Corbyn, who defended EU immigration, urging voters to instead direct their anger towards Conservative austerity measures. He also said that the far right have been allowed to lead the debate.

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After criticisms that Labour has done little to address immigration concerns among voters, particularly in the north of England, Mr Corbyn was asked if there can be an upper limit for immigration. He replied: “I don’t think you can have one while you have the free movement of labour.”

Meanwhile, yesterday George Osborne stepped up warnings of the threat to the economy if Britain votes to leave the EU. The Chancellor said the hit to the economy could be “quite a lot worse” than even the International Monetary Fund was predicting, with hundreds of thousands of jobs at stake in the event of a vote for Brexit.