PM Johnson said that the 2000 people per year limit will be replaced with an easier immigration process for the “very best minds”, to further the UK’s scientific innovation
The Prime Minister said:
“Britain has a proud history of innovation, with home-grown inventions spanning from the humble bicycle to the lightbulb.
“We were home to the world’s first national DNA database, we discovered graphene, and our cutting-edge scientists should be proud to follow in the footsteps of titans like Ada Lovelace and Nobel Laureates Francis Crick and Peter Higgs.
“But to ensure we continue to lead the way in the advancement of knowledge, we have to not only support the talent that we already have here, but also ensure our immigration system attracts the very best minds from around the world.”
However, none of these proposals are yet concrete.
The UK government is simply opening up the possibility of talks with universities and instutitions to enable an easier immigration system for exceptional talent.
Diane Abbott MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, responding to government plans to remove the cap on tier one visas, said:
“This is yet another sticking plaster policy to cover the gaping wound that will be a No Deal Brexit.
“Boris Johnson has not even taken the time to confirm his position on the EU Settlement Scheme and what it will mean for the rights of EU nationals. So this announcement is simply an attempt to gloss over the very real damage his Brexit approach will do scientific research and development.
“The public cannot be hoodwinked into believing that a Home Office which upholds “hostile environment practices”, loses nearly three-quarters of immigration appeals in court, and has failed miserably to register all EU nationals already resident in the UK, has the leadership necessary to deliver such a scheme.
“Until there is a clear and unequivocal commitment to bring an end to all ”hostile environment” policies, you can’t trust anything Boris Johnson and the Tories say on immigration.”
The fast-track immigration route will be designed to attract elite researchers and specialists in science, engineering and technology, from maths Olympiads at the very start of their careers to the winners of internationally recognised prizes and fellowships.
Here are some measures the UK government is willing to discuss:
- abolishing the cap on numbers under the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas
- expanding the pool of UK research institutes and universities able to endorse candidates
- creating criteria that confer automatic endorsement, subject to immigration checks
- ensuring dependents have full access to the labour market
- removing the need to hold an offer of employment before arriving
- an accelerated path to settlement
Home Secretary Priti Patel said:
“We want Britain to be the most prosperous economy in Europe with an immigration system that attracts the brightest and best global talent.
“Our new fast-track visa route will be a key part of this – encouraging the world’s top scientists and researchers to our shores.
“These gifted minds will bolster the UK’s standing as a hub for science and innovation as we look to introduce a points-based immigration system centred on what people will contribute to our great country.”
David Williams, Executive Chairman of leading quantum technology company Arqit, said:
“As a British business pioneering the science of Quantum Cyber Security, it is crucial that Britain welcomes scientific talent from around the World so we strongly support the Prime Minister’s initiative.
“These changes will complement plans for an Australian-style points-based immigration system, as set out by the Prime Minister when he came into office.”
The Government says it will also provide additional funding for scientists and researchers who have sought EU funding before the UK leaves the EU. This includes schemes delivered by the European Research Council: a significant financial contributor to work done by scientists in the UK.
In 2018 December, Theresa May’s government published guidance on Horizon 2020 funding and Brexit, stating that:
“The government’s priority remains ensuring the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified.
“This would ensure that UK entities’ right to participate in Horizon 2020 would be unaffected by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU for the lifetime of projects financed by the current Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).”
The former Conservative government intended to protect Horizon 2020 funding opportunities through a Deal, whereas the current Boris Johnson government emphatically states that a No-Deal scenario would not harm the progress of the UK. It is unclear what alternative negotiations are in place with the EU to protect funding and grant opportunities.
As the October 31 deadline looms, the status of the UK in EU research circles remains a volatile and to-be-avoided option.