Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner spoke in a debate about the impact of Brexit on science and research, and called upon the Government to provide non-UK EU nationals working in science with reassurance – and say they can stay.
According to the Royal Society there are 31,000 non-UK EU citizens working in research and academia in the UK. The Babraham Institute in Cambridge says nearly a third of their employees and visiting researchers are non-UK EU nationals. These EU nationals are undertaking vital work across the UK to tackle global challenges and improve people's lives. Mr Zeichner warned against a significant brain drain that could occur if these people are forced to leave, or if they feel the UK is no longer an attractive place to live and work.
Evidence suggests that the EU researchers the UK attracts are at the top of their fields; more than half of European Research Council consolidator grant recipients in the UK in 2014 were non-UK EU. But EU citizens being required to apply for a visa to work in UK universities poses a risk to universities' ability to recruit and retain high-quality staff.
Mr Zeichner raised the importance of access to EU funding sources, and collaboration with researchers across Europe, for UK scientific growth.
Daniel Zeichner MP said: "There are many non-UK EU scientists working in and around Cambridge feeling very anxious – the Government must end the uncertainty they are facing and tell them they are welcome here. Scientific discovery knows no borders, so talented people – and their ideas – must be allowed to flow freely. Maintaining researcher mobility, and refusing to create barriers to internationalism, must be a priority in Brexit negotiations."