The general election result has not brought the desired clarity from which to begin Brexit negotiations.
Although much is currently being made of the potentially damaging consequences of the result, the new reality provides opportunities for reasoned discussions based on evidence and expertise – an approach that Prospect has consistently advocated.
An emerging mood, validated by the election outcome, is that the tone of the discussions must change. Politicians who correctly respected the outcome of the EU referendum cannot now conveniently ignore the wishes of the electorate.
So far, we’ve heard some positive sentiments about the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) to the UK economy. But we have not seen any specific proposals and nothing has been said to resolve the damaging uncertainty that continues to pervade.
Prospect’s key asks have not changed. We want to see:
- clarity over the UK’s future relationship with the EU, including the implications for international collaboration and access to funding post-2020
- a long-term, sustainable strategy for UK STEM, based on collaboration with a wide range of stakeholder groups
- continued rights for non-UK EU nationals to work in the UK and reciprocal rights for UK citizens to work in the wider EU.
No politician should underestimate the turmoil faced by individuals who simply do not know whether they, and their families, have a future in the UK.
One Prospect member recently told me that Brexit “has fundamentally changed my world and the worry and stress it is causing is significant to the point of overwhelming at times”.
The principle of free movement is hugely important – and emotionally divisive. It is a prime example of an issue that needs to be infused with evidence and rationality.
If, as seems likely, the UK seeks an extended process of managed migration, Prospect’s STEM objectives are threefold:
- ensure that people whose career progression involves periods of working abroad are not excluded from acquiring, or maintaining, their rights to permanent residency
- to not penalise STEM organisations by imposing additional costs on employing EU nationals. Our research shows that EU workers make a core contribution to the organisations they work for, enhancing capacity and reputation; we all benefit from their work
- ensure that any extension of the Tier 2 salary threshold or successor arrangements to EU nationals does not exclude specialists, especially those in organisations covered by public sector pay restraint.
These are not only the right things to do – they are also sound economic choices and ones that Prospect will campaign for in the months ahead.
The stronger our voice, the greater the influence we can have.
For further information about how you can contribute, please visit www.prospect.org.uk/be-involved/brexit/resources