The UK formally left the EU with a withdrawal agreement at 11pm on 31st January, and entered a transition period, during which a trade deal must be negotiated. As the UK entered the transition period, the biosciences still face many changes as new policies are negotiated, considered and put into place. Relevant policies that need to be developed include those for UK fisheries, the environment and climate change, and international trade.
Dr Mark Downs, CSci FRSB, chief executive of the RSB, says that collaboration between policymakers and the scientific community is essential in ensuring UK science remains world-leading and standards remain high. “The UK must aim to remain a world leader in science, with our scientists continuing to work with policy makers to solve societal challenges. “The RSB will also continue our work to provide a platform for discussion and knowledge exchange between the diverse range of people who have a part to play in the consultation and policy making process. We will continue to encourage policies formed on the basis of broad, inter-sectoral and inter-disciplinary evidence, and assist in making this possible.
“Through renegotiation of relationships with all international partners, the UK must not allow a reduction of standards relating to key areas such as animal welfare, food safety, environmental protection and conservation.
“We hope that the Government remains receptive to our suggestions throughout the transition period, and that we are able to ensure the UK science sector remains open and welcoming to all.”
Since the referendum in 2016, RSB has made it a priority to engage with policy makers to keep the needs of the bioscience community on the political agenda during Brexit negotiations. The RSB has continually advocated for the importance of a well-functioning, close relationship between the UK and the EU for UK bioscience, essential for sector development.
Policies will still be developed regarding our relationship with the EU during the transition period
The RSB has advocated the need for a supportive system and environment that enables skilled EU scientists to live and work in the UK, while offering the same opportunity to UK scientists wishing to live and work in the EU. The RSB has also recommended that border control processes, in both directions, should remain simple and effective to ensure scientists can continue to travel, disseminate research and collaborate on a day to day basis.
In 2019, the RSB spoke out against a no-deal Brexit, recommending that policymakers work together to come to an agreement that best enables scientists to collaborate on world leading research.
The RSB has cautiously supported the announcement of the new Global Talent visa, a fast track system for top scientists, with the recommendation that policy reflects the importance of scientists at all stages of their career as key members of the UK scientific and research community.
The RSB has stressed the importance of collaboration and training opportunities for students, and the UK’s involvement in programmes such as Erasmus+, in which the PM has stated that UK will continue to participate.
Following a consultation exercise, to which the RSB responded, the Government’s post-Brexit Agriculture Bill was given its first reading in the House of Commons on 16th January and aims to replace the current EU policy.
While the Government’s move to encourage environmental protection through proposals such as those made in the 25 Year Environment Plan was welcomed, the RSB will continue to recommend a greater focus on encouraging collaborative discussion around new biotechnologies.
The RSB provided evidence to policy makers on evolving systems for research and innovation collaboration and funding, with the RSB advocating funding structures that support international collaboration, and recommending that UK researchers retain access to EU funding via continued UK contributions. The Changes and Choices report, which emerged from this consultation exercise, closely followed RSB recommendations.
The RSB will continue our work to represent our members’ interests through ongoing engagement with policies of relevance to UK bioscience, including changes toimmigration policy, agriculture and fisheries policy and research valuation and funding frameworks.
A summary of the RSB’s activity in the lead up to Brexit can be found on our UK Biosciences and Europe page.