It is not enough for the UK to be a possible destination; we must continue to be a popular one,” is at the heart of a response from the RSB to the Prime Minister’s new plans to introduce a fast-track visa route for scientists. Boris Johnson has instructed the Home Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to develop a new immigration system for scientists wishing to come to the UK, with a view to launching it later this year. The development of the new visa system will involve input from leading institutions and universities, with options including possible abolition of the cap on numbers for Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas, or the removal of the need to hold an offer of employment before arriving in the UK.
The RSB director of policy and public affairs, Laura Bellingan stated that the PMs comment was welcome but that visa reforms may not be enough –the UK must still be able to take part in EU funding programmes or risk jeopardising the progress made so far. In addition she said: “We welcome the PM’s enthusiastic recognition of UK research and development strength, the huge potential for future gains, and the prominent role that international scientists and researchers must play in this.“UK success in science and research relies on a wide range of talents, skills and collaborations, at all points along many different career paths.“With the right reforms the system could support the short term, long term and settled status immigration needs of a research and development community and their families – the community the PM hopes to attract. “We would be pleased to see the detailed proposals and to help towards the goal, but it will not be enough in itself.
“The right funding and support for the sector and a welcoming culture are vital ingredients to attract the diverse community that the UK needs to succeed.
“It is not enough for the UK to be a ‘possible’ destination; we must continue to be a popular one among the increasingly competitive global options.
“If we are to maintain our position as a world leader of science and technology, Government must put us in the best position to collaborate with and join in EU funding programmes among others.
“The risk of falling behind is always high, and decades of sustained efforts to succeed should not be jeopardised.”
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said: “To ensure we continue to lead the way in the advancement of knowledge, we have to not only support the talent that we already have here, but also ensure our immigration system attracts the very best minds from around the world.” “I want the UK to continue to be a global science superpower, and when we leave the EU we will support science and research and ensure that, far from losing out, the scientific community has a huge opportunity to develop and export our innovation around the world.”
The RSB have previously warned the Government of the potential dangers of a no-deal brexit, and also responded to previous comments made by Boris Johnson on GM regulation in his inaugural speech as PM, at the end of July.
Additional material is available on our UK Biosciences and Europe webpage.