Statement on PM's Immigration Plan for Scientists
Updated: Apr 7, 2020
Scientists for Labour welcomes the prime minister’s recent announcement to improve the immigration system, to better facilitate the free movement of international scientists into British science institutions and universities. We further appreciate the prime minister’s commitment to making the UK the ‘greatest place for science’.
However, we also note that arguably the greatest boon to UK science is international collaboration, and while ensuring the continued free movement of scientists into the UK is a significant step in boosting UK science, the collaborations that will be (and have already been) lost as a result of Britain’s exit from the EU represent a harsh blow to Britain’s position as world leaders in many fields of science.
The hurt caused to our international colleagues by Britain’s decision to exit the EU has had profound negative effect on the UK science community, with many of our members reporting anecdotal evidence of their European colleagues no longer feeling welcome in the UK. Far from creating the supposedly welcoming atmosphere that the prime minister claims to support, recruitment of EU nationals for PhD positions at UK universities has dropped significantly in the 3 years since the EU membership referendum.
Furthermore, we note that free movement should not and cannot be limited to scientists, as UK science relies heavily on international infrastructure to function. From free international travel to conferences and meetings, to proper working rights for scientific researchers and PhD students, on to NHS staff that look after sick scientists and police the keep scientists safe, we rely on fundamental internationalism for our everyday work. As such, Scientists for Labour call on the prime minister and his government to promote free movement for all people, so that our economy can be built around an expert, high waged economy; properly supported by appropriate international infrastructure.
For these reasons and more, Scientists for Labour has always supported, and continues to support, remaining in the EU. However, given the prime minister’s commitment to Britain exiting the EU on 31st October, we call upon the prime minister to seek a frictionless trade deal with the European Union following Britain’s exit, as the medium by which British science can be best supported. Without such frictionless trade, the prime minister and his government risk doing irreparable damage to UK science, and ruining Britain’s centuries old reputation as world leaders in so many scientific fields, regardless of any commitment to easier movement of scientists in and out of our country.