Eastercon: science and Brexit

Takeaways from Brexit and Science panel chaired by Nicholas Whyte, from memory and therefore fuzzy and consolidated.

There were obvious concerns about EU projects, loss of personal freedom or movement, brain drain, possibility of closer relationship with US just as it seems to be slipping into tyranny (as opposed to helping the EU be a counterweight to the US and China, which I always thought was one of the best things about the EU), as well as second order concerns about the lack of plan for science as there seems to have been a lack of plan for everything. (Panelist: “I’m supposed to have a plan for my research and I don’t get anything without one. Why should they?”)

0. Britain puts in about 5 billion currency units and gets back more than 8 billion currency units of science funding. This means it will need to find 3 billion currency units to make up the shortfall, or cut science funding by whatever it doesn’t find. 

1. Theresa May isn’t just the face helming Brexit. She has left a minefield of immigration stuff from her time in the coalition government well ahead of the referendum. Panelist with ?American wife is going through hoops over getting her indefinite leave to remain, and thanks to Theresa May he has to agree to stay in Britain through 2022 as one of the conditions for securing this. (The room could not say enough bad things about May.) 

2. When Britain leaves the EU it leaves Euratom, which a) is a big funder of university research; b) regulates nuclear plants, so Britain has to either invent its own world-recognized regulator (?), or continue to participate in Euratom, or be operating nuclear power illegally or at least outside the international system, like Iraq, Israel or North Korea (”We’d have to invade ourselves”; c) regulates radiographic medicine, so at a minimum British firms will have trouble selling X-ray equipment abroad.  

3. Frightening prospect of security (meaning e.g. ability to share information on terrorists, to regulate dangerous stuff, to guarantee common defense?) being used as a bargaining chip. 

4. One panelist works on microbes, which “do not respect international borders and do practice free movement.” Being less able to participate in international disease control could be catastriophic depending on outbreaks.

 5. “When people say Brexit will bring closer ties to the Commonwealth, they mean Canada and America, er, Australia, not India and Kenya. And Canada and Australia are not going to step up and fill the gap. They have their own trade partnerships. The US is not going to either.”

Posted on by Diana ben-Aaron
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