Scientists for Labour responds to Financial Times and Daily Express reports that senior Conservatives, including Jeremy Hunt, Greg Clark and Chris Grayling, now recognise the wish of research-intensive industries – medicines, aviation and chemicals – to stay under the umbrella of EU regulatory bodies.
“Light has at last penetrated the black Brexit hole in the heads of ministers: Research, development and innovation are a global race. Coming second can mean the devastation of your industry”, said John Unsworth, Chair of Scientists for Labour.
All the delays and added transactional costs of leaving European agencies for medicines, aviation and chemicals guarantee the loss of UK jobs and destroy hopes of UK global leadership. This shows that the Brexiters are beginning to see what researchers and industry have been saying since before the referendum
There are many other EU agencies with responsibilities that have a research dimension. Ministers must press Mrs May to stay under the umbrella of all 27 of those agencies. The sheer breadth covered by these agencies across science is staggering. Kier Starmer, Labour shadow Brexit secretary has said the UK could seek to remain under the ECJ’s jurisdiction in the “longer term” to retain membership of EU-managed agencies. The Prime Minister simply said ”I’ll have nothing whatsoever to do with the ECJ in any circumstance”, rather than ignoring dogma and saying ”Look, the role may have to change. Let’s be grown up and sensible about what it might be”.
It’s about time Mrs May started to listen to the scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians who actually carry out the research and innovation needed to grow UK industry.
Scientists for Labour was early to raise the issue of withdrawal from Euratom by March 2019. This EU agency ensures we have nuclear safety including “the support of radiation protection and development of medical applications of radiation, including, inter alia, the secure and safe supply and use of radioisotopes.” The Government has stated that “withdrawal from Euratom will not affect the UK’s ability to import medical radioisotopes”. Nevertheless there remain uncertainties and we support the plea from Royal College of Radiologists and others that ensuring a seamless continuing supply of medical isotopes must form a key part of Brexit negotiations. The consequences of a disrupted radioisotope supply have already been demonstrated when there was a fire in the Channel Tunnel in 2008.
This is just one of many major implications for UK science from Brexit which receive insufficient attention from both politicians and Brexit commentators, and no satisfactory answers from Brexiters within or without the Government.