Farry addresses physics conference on the risks from Brexit

Alliance Economy spokesperson and former Minister for Employment and Learning Stephen Farry has said it is important funding guarantees are given to protect the freedom of movement for academics and other researchers in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Dr Farry was speaking as he gave the keynote address to the Institute of Physics Ireland’s conference today at the Europa Hotel, entitled ‘Brexit – Where Next for Physics in Northern Ireland?’

He said the local science base could best be protected by such guarantees, again highlighting the need for consideration to be given for special arrangements for Northern Ireland to be negotiated following the EU referendum vote.

“One of the most vulnerable sectors in Northern Ireland and the UK from Brexit is our universities and wider research and science base,” Dr Farry said.

“It is well understood a strong research and innovation base can be a key driver of the economic transformation of Northern Ireland. It is frustrating Brexit is coming along a time when Northern Ireland is close to having a real ‘break-out’ opportunity.

“Much focus has fallen on the supposed guarantees Chancellor Philip Hammond has given through to 2020 for projects receiving funding from Horizon 2020. However, this ignores the competitive problems facing researchers since the referendum result, with partners across Europe viewing the UK institutions as a greater risk. As science depends on the international mobility of researchers, it is important reassurance is given to existing EU nationals on their right to remain and there will be continued freedom of movement.

“Ultimately, the best way to secure the future of the local research base is the same as many other of the key features of our economy and society that depend upon the EU – through the full exploration and negotiation of special arrangements for Northern Ireland.”

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