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Impact of Brexit on STEM – share your stories from the frontline

Impact of Brexit on STEM – share your stories from the frontline

scientists in lab with test tube and microscope

Before the EU referendum I blogged about our members’ concerns over the implications of Brexit for their work and later in June about the ugly rise in racism and xenophobia after the result.

The major concerns for the UK’s key science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) sectors – then, as now – relate to:

  • job security for EU nationals and the potential negative consequences both for the skills base of their organisations and for the UK’s ability to maintain its leading scientific status
  • loss of EU funding and threats to international networks and key European collaborations.

Though welcome in the short term, the Chancellor’s announcement in the summer that existing Horizon 2020 commitments will be honoured does little to alleviate the uncertainty over projects and plans that will and must extend beyond 2020.

Although the government’s intended pathway is still not entirely clear, Prospect has been working hard to influence the next stage of decision-making.

In the light of debate at our national conference in May and information shared by members, we were able to make an early submission to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee.

We have met with the UK government’s chief scientific adviser and lobbied the science minister. We have also made the TUC aware of our concerns, including at its national conference last month, where Prospect president Denise McGuire highlighted the importance of continued STEM investment to successful industrial strategy.

Our emerging priorities include:

  • guaranteed rights for EU nationals already working in the UK to remain and continued international mobility for scientists
  • better awareness of the contribution made by specialists to key industries and the public good
  • commitments to funding post-2020
  • early clarity about the UK’s relationship with the EU (and other countries) to provide assurance to international science networks; and
  • wider engagement with stakeholders to develop a long-term strategy for UK STEM.

We know that this will not be a quick campaign but, with thanks to the members and reps in Scotland, Wales and London who attended consultation meetings during September, we have a work plan that should keep Prospect at the forefront of the debate as it develops.

As ever, Prospect’s credibility and clout depends on the feedback we receive from the frontline. We need your help to:

  • Renew and refresh our evidence base. Further information is already coming to light and will continue to do so. Many employers share our concerns and may be willing to share information with you. Some will be angry or frustrated that commitments already made to EU initiatives will not now be fulfilled. All of these involve a cost to the public purse.
  • Tell your stories about your work and how the people who do it will be affected by Brexit. Personal accounts are the most effective way of engaging a wider political and public audience. A few members have already shared their experience but we need others to do so from across STEM-based sectors.

Prospect is prioritising this work, so please to get in touch and get involved – email

Sue Ferns

Sue Ferns


  • STEM personnel should bear in mind that our EU funding came back from our EU subscriptions and were therefore funded by our Treasury.

    After Brexit takes place, the Chancellor will once again be in control of the UK budget. Open minded acceptance of this democratic process for our nation may place your funding need higher up the enormous list of the Chancellors budget demands.

    Simple isn't it? 

    Keith Brockwell

    10 January 2017 15:10

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