Brexit already impacting UK science and farms

Seven major science academies call for government assurances that academics from the EU will stay and that funding will be maintained

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 July, 2016, 8:08pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 July, 2016, 1:36pm

Members of the UK's science and agriculture industries have already begun to voice concerns about the impact on funding and labour as a result of the Brexit vote to leave the European Union.

Seven major science academies, including The Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences, have signed an open letter warning there have been immediate implications from Brexit and called for assurances from the UK government that academics from the EU will be allowed to stay and that funding for U.K. science will be maintained.

"[The UK] a net beneficiary from EU research programmes" said the open letter, published earlier this week. "Urgent discussions are needed on how to address any funding gap in both the short and medium term."

A report published by The Royal Society in December 2015 found that while the UK overall was a net contributor to the EU budget, it received more EU research funding than it had paid for.

"The UK's contribution to EU research and development of 5.4 billion euros (US$5.95 billion) over the period 2007–2013," the report said. "During this time, the UK received 8.8 billion euros (US$9.7 billion) in direct EU funding for research, development and innovation activities."

According to the open letter, 15 per cent of academic staff at UK universities are from other EU states. In addition, the BBC reported that some UK firms had stopped receiving EU funds and UK academics were being left out of EU research projects.

Meanwhile, the National Farmer's Union (NFU) has warned that immigration restrictions as a result of a Brexit would affect the supply of seasonal labour.

"We need to be prepared to explore all the possible options in maintaining access to horticulture's vital labour supply," said Ali Capper, the NFU's horticulture board chairman.

"What is also clear is that we are not just talking about access to seasonal labour - some sectors and businesses are currently reliant on non-UK workers in full-time roles, year-round."

In a letter to David Davis, the UK's minister for Brexit, Mrs Capper said "non-UK workers are vital" to agriculture industry.

UK farming is highly reliant on migrant labour. A report by the NFU published in January found that agriculture employers had struggled to recruit a domestic workforce due to the seasonal nature of farming and had to hire from abroad: in 2014, there were 34,513 non UK-born workers employed in agriculture, according to the report.

"Any restrictions on our ability to recruit non UK-born workers would negatively impact the sector," the report warned.

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