Physicists share their Brexit concerns

Image: Shutterstock/niroworld

It’s now more than five months since the referendum on UK membership of the European Union.

In the face of a changing relationship between the UK and the EU, the IOP has been working hard to secure a positive outcome for physics. Physics has been hugely beneficial to the UK economy and society, and we want to retain those benefits whatever the rest of exit negotiations have in store.

Here, some IOP members share their woes, worries – and suggestions – around Brexit.

borri_paola_staff_profile“About 30% of my PhD students presently are from the EU, and they are worried about their future opportunities. Most likely they will not remain in the UK at the end of their PhD – which is a waste of training resources in terms of the next generation scientists for this country.”

Professor Paola Borri
Cardiff University


david-brown“A chartered qualification – representing, as it does, assurance of both academic formation and responsible professional experience validated by peer review – should automatically confer the right to a visa to study and work in the UK, whether in industry or academia.”

Dr David Brown
Former chief executive of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, director of Trihelica Ltd, a a consultancy specialising in academic-business-government links


steven-p-brown-photo“It is especially sad that the UK will no longer be able to shape EU science policy – the UK has been a major driving force in ensuring that European Research Council fellowships are the gold standard of scientific research excellence. The impact on the UK of not being able to shape and influence EU science policy – notably, pushing for the primacy of scientific excellence – will be detrimental.”

Professor Steven P Brown
University of Warwick



robert-harrison“I was talking to someone who is engaged as a grant evaluator for the European Commission. He said that one of his friends, who is also evaluates research proposals for the EU, has started ranking down proposals in which UK research groups are engaged. His reasons were principally that there are so many good proposals that he has to choose some objective grounds for excluding some ideas.”

Dr Robert Harrison
Patent and trademark attorney, 24IP Law Group, Munich and London


nicolas_small_sq“Freedom of movement is crucial for student mobility through the Erasmus and Erasmus+ programmes, so the UK should seek to have associated member state status in the Erasmus+ and future Framework programmes. We should also highlight the high-quality projects that have been conducted by UK-based researchers. Both parties (the EU and the UK) will lose if we cannot continue to take part in future projects.”

Dr Nicolas Labrosse
University of Glasgow


spiller-218px“I have already heard anecdotal evidence from research areas other than my own that there is now significant resistance among other EU researchers to having the UK be the lead on any new Horizon 2020 proposals being drawn up – even if the UK would have been the logical lead partner, based on R&D track record and leadership. Indeed, even UK participation in proposals is being questioned as to its value and potential impact on success probabilities.”

Professor Timothy P Spiller
University of York


mysterymanA lot of EU contracts state that any intellectual property developed using EU funds is only for use licence-free to member states. Non-member states would probably have to try to negotiate access to, or license, the technology. At present, UK industry has access to, or is developing, core technologies for programs that would have potentially reaped huge rewards for UK industry and exports. Depending on the exit negotiations, the UK may lose access to the intellectual property needed even though it was developed in the UK.”

An IOP member who requested to remain anonymous

Along with partner organisations, the IOP is helping to ensure that members’ voices are heard, taking contributions from the community in responses to government consultations and holding town meetings such as those in Northern Ireland and in Scotland to gather information on the implications for science, and talking directly with policymakers.

Has the vote to leave the EU has affected your work? Share your experiences in the comments below

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Christopher White

Christopher White

Christopher was the IOP's Publications & Content Editor.
Christopher White

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