The Francis Crick Institute, the UK’s biggest biomedical research lab, has warned that a hard or ‘no deal’ Brexit could cripple UK science, as a survey of over 1,000 staff reveals that 97% of scientists believe a hard Brexit would be bad for UK science (76% very negative, 21% negative).

As the results are released, 29 Nobel Prize winning scientists from across Europe have written to UK Prime Minister Theresa May and EU President Jean-Claude Juncker urging the ‘closest possible cooperation between the UK and the EU’ after Brexit to preserve vital scientific research. The signatories include Crick Director Paul Nurse and the letter is led by Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society.

Concerns about Brexit are very high at the Crick, with only 10% of scientists feeling confident in the future of UK science. Only 4% think that the government is committed to getting a good deal for science while only 3% think the scientific community is being listened to. The findings reflect the online survey carried out by the Biochemical Society in February 2016 to capture the pre-referendum views of researchers working in molecular bioscience. In the Society’s survey, 96% of respondents agreed that ‘overall, current EU membership benefits UK molecular bioscience’, with support for EU membership high across all demographics on issues such as EU funding and networking and collaboration in the EU.

Responding to the news, Professor Sir Pete Downes, President of the Biochemical Society, said

With less than six months to go before the UK exits the European Union, it is disappointing to see that the concerns highlighted by scientists before and since the referendum result have not yet been allayed. The UK’s bioscience sector benefits the wider public, provides a significant economic contribution and remains an area of strength and competitive advantage. It is crucial that the Government recognizes this value. The drug discovery sector in the UK is particularly strong, attracting and employing many molecular bioscientists from across the globe. In addition to continuing to support the growth of this important area of research, it is also essential that the concerns of those working in other life science sectors, such as plant science and biotechnology, are equally heard and addressed. We need a deal that not only replaces the science funding that will be lost through Brexit, but that also prioritizes freedom of movement for scientists. The ability of international researchers to work and study in the UK is crucial if we are to remain a global leader in science and innovation.



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The Biochemical Society is working alongside our sister societies and other organizations to urge the UK Government to ensure that funding and opportunities for scientists to move and collaborate between the UK and EU are priorities in the Brexit negotiations.
In order to support these activities, we are continuing to gather evidence and case studies to inform our engagement with policy makers. If you have been or expect to be affected by the changes, or have evidence of the challenges or any emerging opportunities for biochemistry, molecular biology and the wider biosciences, please share your experiences by writing to: biopol@biochemistry.org.