UK university research is ‘threatened’ by Brexit, ex-Havant MP says

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BREXIT is threatening key university research, a former MP has warned.

Ex-Havant MP David Willetts said the vote to leave the EU was jeopardising UK-led research and crucial grant initiatives to support it.

Speaking at a debate in the House of Lords, the Tory peer, a former universities minister, said: ‘There are a range of concerns in the university and science community about Brexit and we do need some kind of structure or framework in which those concerns can be considered by the government.’

He welcomed the government’s pledge it would guarantee research funding is secured before the UK leaves the EU but urged it to go further.

A crucial issue Lord Willetts said needed to be tackled was the relationship between the EU research programme, known as Horizon 2020.

He said: ‘I rather regret that the way the debate went in the referendum focused so much on funding and not very much on networks, and the networks are if anything as important if not more important than the funding.

‘Maintaining those networks is crucial.’

The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Christopher Foster, stressed the need for continued engagement post-Brexit.

He said: ‘Insularity in our approach, perceived or actual, will relegate us in the world’s perspective and risk not only the financial stability of our outstanding universities but their educational standards too, to the detriment of the nation.’

The concerns come ahead of a major post-Brexit engagement event at the University of Portsmouth next week.

The event has been organised by university bosses as a way to reassure foreign lecturers fearful of Brexit’s impact on them.