Scientists and engineers bring Brexit concerns to Parliament

Scientists and engineers bring Brexit concerns to Parliament

Prospect members from a wide range of science and engineering disciplines will tell MPs and Lords today (Tuesday 7 March) how uncertainties about Brexit are impacting on them and their organisations.

BAS members at work

Scientists and engineers from the British Antarctic Survey, European Medicines Agency, National Oceanography Centre, Science and Technology Facilities Council, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Culham Centre for Fusion Energy and Sellafield will be launching a booklet that tells their stories.

The booklet reinforces the argument that many of the world-leading programmes in which the UK is involved are just not scalable to a national level.

Mary Creagh, chair of the Commons environmental audit committee, who will be attending the launch, said: “The UK gets much more out of EU research funding than it puts in. UK science has benefited from collaboration with European research partners.”

The committee found sharing environmental knowledge provided significant benefits to the UK environment over the last 40 years.

“We have called on the government to replace EU funding for research after we leave, and give clear commitments about how UK scientists can continue to work with our international partners to tackle the great environmental problems of our age, which do not respect national borders,” she added.

Prospect will also release the results of a survey* which found that almost nine in ten scientists and engineers (86%) are dissatisfied with government preparations for life outside the European Union.

  • Sixty-nine per cent of respondents said uncertainty about the timing and impact of the Brexit process had impacted negatively on their organisation’s ability to fulfil ongoing functions and plan or undertake long-term projects.
  • The vast majority of respondents (86%) are dissatisfied with government preparations for life outside the EU.
  • More than six in ten (64%) said they feel less secure in their employment since the EU referendum.
  • Less than one quarter (23%) are confident that their organisation has the staff and skills to inform and support government negotiations on Brexit and take on new responsibilities that leaving the EU might bring.
  • Looking ahead, 77% of respondents see continued access to the single market as a priority. Eighty per cent prioritised freedom of movement and 90% wanted guaranteed rights for EU nationals to stay in the UK.
  • More than one in ten (11%) are planning to leave the UK up to and after Brexit, with a further 22% of STEM professionals not yet decided.  

Prospect deputy general secretary Sue Ferns said: “Continued uncertainty for our science funding and collaboration is not neutral. It damages relationships day-by-day and brings a high emotional cost.

“The government must make tangible commitments to end uncertainty and set a positive path to future economic success.”

Prospect is campaigning for:

  • guaranteed rights for EU nationals already working in the UK to remain here
  • continued international mobility for scientists and engineers, including for UK citizens to work in other EU countries
  • assurances that the UK will not exit Euratom (the European Atomic Energy Community), at least until equivalent provisions have been put in place
  • assurances about funding after 2020
  • early clarity about the UK’s relationship with the EU (and other countries) to provide assurances to international professional networks and mitigate against the UK being frozen out of collaborative proposals
  • strong repudiation of incidences of racism and xenophobia wherever and whenever they occur
  • engagement with stakeholders in developing a long-term strategy for UK STEM.

* Prospect’s survey was carried out over two weeks in early February. It was completed by 2,758 members – of whom 11% work in science, technology, engineering and maths.