Following the result of June's referendum on the UK's membership of the EU, the science and environment sectors now face a multitude of uncertainties concerning regulation, the UK's future in EU research programmes, and the mobility of students and researchers within the EU. For many of these points, impacts of these uncertainties are already being felt. We have received accounts of researchers and students not accepting positions or places in UK institutions due to fears about the future, and of UK organisations being discouraged from participating in or leading EU funding bids due to concerns about future eligibility and their impact on the bid's success.
The Government must act quickly to deal with the uncertainties Brexit has provoked and to map out a path forward for our science and research sector, outside the EU. Several Select Committees of MPs in the House of Commons are undertaking inquiries to establish what the Government's priorities should be on various important issues for environmental scientists. The IES will be responding to these inquiries where the expertise of our members may be valuable. The first such submission is to an inquiry of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, who are investigating the implications and opportunities for UK science assocated with leaving the EU.
Our submission explored the major issues of concern for environmental science in detail, and can be accessed below. However, some of the key points our submission highlighted are summarised below:
- The potential loss of access to EU funding schemes represents a significant risk to interdisciplinary environmental research in the UK, the magnitude of which will depend upon the relationship ultimately negotiated with the EU.
- The collaboration and competition involved in EU funding bids promotes and fosters ambitious and innovative research, which can deliver benefits for our environment, economy and society.
- For the UK science sector to thrive, we need to be able to attract the best researchers and students into UK institutes, universities and businesses. The Government must act quickly to counter uncertainty which is already discouraging some from taking up positions or places in the UK.
- The changing regulatory environment associated with Brexit will have significant impacts on many professional environmental scientists whose work is concerned with the implementation of EU environmental regulation or in data collection, monitoring or impact assessment associated with it. A major review will now be required to decide which pieces of EU regulation should continue to apply to the UK and significant scientific expertise will be required to undertake this substantial task.
- It is clear to environmental scientists that environmental systems rarely reflect political boundaries, and environmental processes and pollutants rarely respect them either. Therefore, maintaining positive working relationships with our EU neighbours will be vital. Where appropriate, and on the basis of good scientific advice, the Government should seek continuity in policies on trans-boundary issues and problems such as climate change and air pollution which can be better tackled at a pan-EU level.
For more information about the IES' policy work, or to contibute to future work on this issue, please contact Robert Ashcroft.