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UK exit from EU would be serious threat to science and healthcare, experts warn

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i1117 (Published 23 February 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1117
  1. Adrian O’Dowd
  1. London

The possible exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union could cause serious damage to the country’s science infrastructure and research funding and could cut universities’ income, science experts have predicted.

After the government’s announcement of a referendum on 23 June on whether the UK should leave the EU, so called “Brexit,” scientists and health experts have started to debate the pros and cons.

Most early commentators seem to believe that leaving the EU would be detrimental to the UK’s science base and to healthcare. They say there would be a negative effect on research collaboration, funding, movement of researchers, access to data, and regulation.

A letter published in the Sunday Times on 21 February, signed by more than 100 UK university leaders, said that an exit would harm UK research and damage universities’ education alliances.1

“Now the prime minister has announced the referendum date, we urge the British public to consider the vital role the EU plays in supporting our world-class universities,” said the letter’s signatories, who include heads of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, King’s College London, and the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Liverpool, and Birmingham.

They continued, “Inside the EU we are better able to collaborate with partners across Europe to carry out cutting-edge research, from medical and healthcare advances to new materials, products and services.

“In the EU the UK is also a more attractive destination for global talent, ensuring that our students are taught by the best minds from across Europe. While no one is suggesting that UK universities could not survive …

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