The UK will push to ensure that academics can move between Britain and the Continent after Brexit during talks on its access to European Union research funding, according to the universities and science minister.
Sam Gyimah made the comments during a question-and-answer session at the Independent HE annual conference in London, where he was also asked if he would vote for Theresa May’s proposed deal on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
A member of the audience asked the minister about “free movement of students or arrangements for staff…academics often moving from one place to another on short-term contracts”, and “if you’re pressing for that”.
Mr Gyimah replied: “Definitely we are. I think some of these issues will be dealt with in the negotiations around the future economic partnership.
“So for example, if I take Horizon Europe [the EU’s next research programme]. If we’re going to be paying billions of euros into the programme, it kind of doesn’t work if academics can’t move freely between universities for periods of time. That is something we will be looking at, certainly in the context of associating with Horizon Europe.”
The minister also said: “What will change is that we’ll be looking at these [mobility] issues on the global basis, rather than EU-specific versus a system for the rest of the world. I’m fine with that, so long as we make sure that the friction is as low as possible, costs are low, and people are actually able to move and study and work between this country and not just the EU 27 but other countries as well.”
Asked by Alex Proudfoot, Independent HE chief executive, whether he would vote for Ms May’s Brexit deal, Mr Gyimah said: “Let’s see where we are. I think the prime minister has achieved a lot in terms of getting an agreement that many thought she couldn’t get on withdrawal. There is a political declaration [on the future relationship].
“And I think the case that the prime minister is making is a very strong one, which is that no-deal will be catastrophic for the British economy, so we want to make sure we do get a deal. And I am very much supportive of that position.”