Brexit without agreement brings uncertainties to UK’s scientific community

The last few days have been decisive for the international community to have a clearer idea of the conditions under which the United Kingdom will cease to belong to the European Union in a process known as Brexit. In the midst of an indefinite political dispute, Prime Minister Boris Jonhson reaffirmed that the country would leave anyway on October 31, but the European Parliament has already signaled a postponement until January 31.

This undefined situation has made the scientific community apprehensive. The main question to be answered concerns the participation of the British in strategic research projects organized by the European Union, which in recent decades have been the largest driving force of research in the bloc. When we speak of the United Kingdom, we must remember that we refer to a great power in Research and Development (R&D). Of the ten most important universities in the world, four are on Queen Elizabeth’s II land. Oxford is fourth in the global ranking, Cambridge seventh, University College London eighth and Imperial College ninth. In addition to university research, the country is very well placed in relation to business innovation associated with it, occupying today the fifth global position, only behind Switzerland, Sweden, the United States and the Netherlands, according to recent research from Cornell University.

A Brexit without agreement between the parties could endanger this situation. About 17 weeks ago, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Director-General Kristalina Georgieva said that if this happens, the economic impact could be tragic, somewhere between 3.5% and 5% of the total. UK GDP, reaching up to 0.5% of the EU economy. But beyond the economic aspect, no one knows what the UK’s position will be concerning the fund of no less than 100 billion Euros, something close to half a trillion reais destined for scientific research in a project called Horizon Europe. This money, intended for cooperation projects between the bloc’s countries, aims to provide a new leap in the development of European science to face its Asian and North American competitors.

Undoubtedly, this is a worrying situation for all parties involved, and it could represent a significant setback for a country that has in its history Francis Bacon, the formulator of the concept of science, Isaac Newton, the creator of modern physics, Charles Darwin, the proponent of the theory of evolution, Alan Turing, the father of computers, and Stephen Hawking, the greatest cosmologist of our time. We can only follow Brexit’s political developments and hope for a solution to this impasse that would allow British science to bequeath the world so many spectacular discoveries and results.