Foreign LSE scholars ‘stopped from briefing government on Brexit’

Danish academic says she was ‘told specifically’ that she and colleagues could no longer provide expert advice to UK government

October 7, 2016
Yellow and black KEEP OUT tape background
Source: iStock

A Danish academic at the London School of Economics says that she has been “told specifically” that she and fellow experts who are not British citizens cannot provide advice to the UK government.

Sara Hagemann, assistant professor in the LSE’s European Institute and an authority on the European Union, tweeted on 6 October: “UK gov[ernmen]t previously sought work & advice from best experts. Just told I & many colleagues no longer qualify as not UK citizens.”

Asked by a Guardian journalist whether she had been directly informed of this or was inferring it from the rhetoric coming out of the recent Conservative Party conference, for example, she replied: “I’ve been specifically told.”

Reports in the Guardian suggest that after receiving an email from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) – said to be worried by security concerns about sensitive material – the LSE informed nine of its academic experts on the EU that they could no longer help brief the government on Brexit due to their not being UK citizens.

However, the nature of the instruction given by the Foreign Office to the LSE was unclear, and there have been reports that there may have been some miscommunication.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The FCO regularly works with academic institutions to assist in its policy research and nothing has changed as a result of the referendum [on the UK's membership of the EU]. It has always been the case that anyone working in the FCO may require security clearance depending on the nature and duration of their work.

“Britain is an outward-looking nation and we will continue to take advice from the best and brightest minds, regardless of nationality.”

The LSE issued a statement that “the UK Government regularly calls upon LSE’s world-class academics for their advice on a range of issues. We believe our academics, including non-UK nationals, have hugely valuable expertise, which will be vital in this time of uncertainty around the UK’s relationship with Europe and the rest of the world. Any changes to security measures are a matter for the UK Government.”

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “If the government is indeed turning down advice from experts in European Union affairs purely on the basis of which country they are from, then this goes against the very nature of an open and independent academic community.”

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