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Streeting – PM has let the cat out of the bag on Brexit and universities

The direction of the UK in moving towards a hard Brexit is meaning that British universities are “finding it harder”, Theresa May said in the House of Commons earlier today. 

Responding to a question by Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge, on how UK universities will be affected by Brexit, the Prime Minister said: “And one of the areas of concern I have is that in some areas such as university research there are some, certainly I’m hearing some anecdotes that universities are finding it harder because of our future.”

The Prime Minister needs to come clean and answer the following five questions:

  • Will she go into more detail about the “concerns” British universities have raised with her about Brexit, and her response?
  • In what way are British universities “finding it harder because of our future.”
  • Can she guarantee that the Government will make up any possible shortfall due to the loss of research funding resulting from Brexit?
  • Can she confirm that UK universities are concerned about possible loss of membership of EU programmes like Horizon 2020, and will she commit to keeping the UK in such programmes after Brexit?
  • How will she reassure universities who are worried about the impact of the Government’s immigration policy on recruiting staff and attracting students from the European Union? 

Commenting, Wes Streeting MP, leading supporter of Open Britain, said:

“The Prime Minister has let the cat out of the bag. For from being a bed of roses, even she admits that Brexit is causing real difficulties and concerns for British universities.

“It is hardly difficult to see why. Universities are rightly worried about the prospect of falling out of important EU programmes like Horizon 2020, losing access to European funding which creates jobs and supports new technologies, and finding it harder to attract students and staff from across the EU. 

“They will be particularly worried by the Government’s absurd and empty threat to leave the EU with no deal, which if it became self-fulfilling would be a hammer blow for our university sector. 

“Theresa May must urgently clarify her remarks and work with British universities to ensure that they will not be damaged by Brexit.”

/ends

Notes to editors:

The full quotes are below:

Daniel Zeichner: I’m sure the PM will be aware of the problems already being faced by our universities and research centres because of the uncertainties around these issues. Could she tell us what discussion she had at the Council with other leaders about dealing with these challenges, and could she take the opportunity today to say whether she wants us to stay within the Horizon 2020 programme in future?

Theresa May: There are a number of these programmes and projects that the United Kingdom has been part of and that we have benefited from, and will be part of the negotiations as we go through. What I’m very clear about at the moment, and the point that we have made consistently within EU circles, is that to ensure that as long as we are in the European Union then we should have the same ability to apply for programmes and be part of these as has been the case previouslyAnd one of the areas of concern I have is that in some areas such as university research there are some, certainly I’m hearing some anecdotes that universities are finding it harder because of our future. What I would say is that a long as we’re in the European Union then we are able to apply on the same basis as we always have been.




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