Leaving the EU: implications and opportunities for science and research Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Short-term responses to uncertainty

1.The Government has provided helpful reassurance to the science and research community by promising to underwrite the payment of EU grants extending beyond the point at which the UK leaves the European Union. However welcome this announcement is, it does not appear to represent a significant new financial investment, given that the EU itself apparently has a legal commitment to honour these payments. (Paragraph 20)

2.There is more to be done to spread the messages of recent Government announcements before the communications strategy can be described as ‘comprehensive’. In this context, the communication of the policy is as important as the policy itself. (Paragraph 24)

3.In the light of continuing uncertainty about the risks and opportunities for science following exit from the EU it is vital that the Government has a comprehensive communications strategy for this critical area. At the heart of such a strategy should be a clear understanding of the different audiences with which the Government should communicate, their existing levels of understanding, and the different forms of communication that will be most effective for each group. (Paragraph 25)

4.We recommend that the Government present to us a genuinely comprehensive strategy for communicating its messages of ongoing support for science and research in the context of its plans for leaving the EU and the negotiations to follow. The strategy should be much more than a collection of high-level meetings and speeches within the UK, and should include an analysis of key audiences in other countries, such as researchers who could be encouraged to work here. (Paragraph 26)

Securing the best outcome for science and research from the Brexit process

5.The Government will need to address all of the priority issues for the science community listed in this report—funding, people, collaboration, regulation and facilities—as a coherent whole rather than a list of separate considerations. (Paragraph 29)

6.We understand that the Government is not yet able to offer firmer guarantees regarding future immigration rules for researchers but remind them that this is essential in order to continue to attract top-quality researchers to the UK. We recognise that planning for exit negotiations is still underway, but there is clear agreement that researcher mobility is a crucial component of the UK’s successful research and science sector. The issue should be treated separately from discussions about immigration control more broadly, with firm commitments provided as soon as possible. (Paragraph 37)

7.The Government should deliver on the Prime Minister’s early reassurance to EU researchers currently working in the UK, that certainty for them will be a Government priority, by making an immediate commitment to exempt them from Brexit negotiations on any reciprocal immigration controls for workers already in post. (Paragraph 40)

The Government’s vision for science outside the European Union

8.It is crucial that science and research have a clear ‘voice’ within DExEU and in developing Brexit negotiation strategies, but we are not yet convinced that this is the case. We welcome the Government’s plans to establish a high level group to capture the views of the science and research community and look forward to receiving further details in the Government’s response to this report. But the science perspective must be part of the Government’s planning now. The Government states that UKRI can provide such a voice. It should formally involve the interim Chair of UKRI as a bridge between BEIS and DExEU. We recommend that he engage publicly with the community to describe the progress made with securing a good outcome for science and research. (Paragraph 60)

9.We were very disappointed to learn that the Department for Exiting the European Union is not currently progressing with appointing a departmental Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA). Such an adviser could help ensure that the impact on science and research of various models for Brexit, and the opportunities these provide, is understood and prioritised within the Department. A stronger Brexit role for UKRI should not be a substitute for a clear science voice within DExEU itself. We recommend that DExEU make appointing a Chief Scientific Adviser a matter of priority. (Paragraph 62)

10.There is a need for the Government to articulate an ambitious vision for science that goes beyond continuing to be ‘open for business’ and generally seeking “a positive outcome” from leaving the EU. At this stage it may not be possible to articulate the detail of how any vision for science after-Brexit will be achieved, but a more ambitious statement would provide greater reassurance in the current climate of uncertainty. The beginnings of this were provided by the Science Minister in his evidence to us, but such a vision needs to be developed and propagated much further. (Paragraph 63)

11.The Government must send a clear message now that it intends to protect the UK’s strength in science. To help allay the uncertainty arising from the Referendum result, it should set out its objectives for addressing the priority areas of concern for the science community—funding, people, collaboration, regulation and facilities. It should use the opportunity of the Autumn Statement later this month to commit, as we have previously recommended, to raising the UK’s expenditure on science R&D to 3% of GDP. This would demonstrate a determination not only to negotiating a post-Brexit relationship with the EU that is good for science but also to secure opportunities for science collaboration with markets beyond Europe. (Paragraph 64)

12.The Government must set out the metrics it will use to assess how well the UK avoids the risks of Brexit for science and research and secures the benefits. It should monitor these metrics during the course of the Brexit negotiations, and regularly publish the results. We intend to ask the Minister for science for updates periodically during the course of the Brexit process. (Paragraph 67)

17 November 2016