Government’s clear vision of Brexit outlined in new White Paper

weekly-focus-480The UK Government has just unveiled its Brexit blueprint in The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union.  Published yesterday, Brexit Minister David Davis presented the white paper to the House of Commons, just one day after Brexit supporters celebrated a ‘momentous’ night as the House of Commons backed the triggering of the Lisbon Treaty’s Article 50 by a margin of 498 to 114.

The Prime Minister makes it clear in her Foreword that we are not ‘expecting failure, but anticipating success’.  She draws attention to the divisiveness of the Referendum but stresses the need for the country to now come together.

Echoing the PM’s previous Brexit speech, the content of the White Paper outlines her ‘12-point Brexit plan‘, which includes:

  • Controlling immigration
  • Securing rights for EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU
  • Ensuring the UK remains the best place for science and innovation

The paper also reiterates funding commitments to ‘competitive grants, including science and research funding, and structural and investment funds’ and reassurance that ‘Government will consult closely with stakeholders to review all EU funding schemes in the round, to ensure any ongoing funding commitments best serve the UK’s national interests.’

In terms of controlling immigration, the White Paper states that our intention is to be open to international talent, being one of our ‘most distinctive assets’ and makes direct reference to students by explicitly stating:

The UK will always welcome genuine students and those with the skills and expertise to make our nation better still. We have already confirmed that existing EU students and those starting courses in 2016-17 and 2017-18 will continue to be eligible for student loans and home fee status for the duration of their course. We have also confirmed that research councils will continue to fund postgraduate students from the EU whose courses start in 2017-18.

The Government also recognises the important contribution made by students and academics from EU Member States to the UK’s world class universities. A global UK must also be a country that looks to the future.

This is quite an accomplishment for the HE sector as the Government officially recognises and makes specific reference to the academic staff/student community for their ‘important contribution…to the UK’s world class universities’.  It is, however, vital that the HE sector continues to demonstrate the wider contributions of overseas staff and students as the government agenda is clearly to ‘gain control of the numbers of people coming in’ and to ‘understand the potential impacts’ through a ‘comprehensive picture of the needs and interests of all parts of the UK’.  We must insure that the implementation of any new immigration arrangement does not harm our reputation as world-leading or our attractiveness for global talent.

In terms of securing status of EU nationals, it is emphasised as one of Government’s main priorities with the hope to reach reciprocal deals with EU partners ‘at the earliest opportunity’.  

Number 10 of the 12-point plan is Ensuring the United Kingdom remains the best place for science and innovation through seeking ‘agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research, and technology initiatives.’  It adds:

The UK is already a leading destination for science and innovation. One of our great strengths as a nation is the breadth and depth of our academic and scientific communities, backed up by some of the world’s best universities, three of which are in the world’s top 10 and 12 in the top 100.  Five universities in Scotland alone are in the top 200. The UK is ranked by the World Economic Forum as one of the top six nations in the world for university-industry collaboration in research and development.  In 2016, the UK was also third in the Global Innovation Index.

The Government highlights that the Autumn Statement confirmed its long-term commitment to research and innovation and that the new Industrial Strategy is a manifestation of Government’s pledge to capitalise on and invest in UK’s strengths and ‘strong global position in research and innovation excellence’.

It is clear through Government’s Brexit vision that the predominant goal is to maintain old and establish new strong partnerships so that the UK’s future is outward and global rather than inward and isolated.

Theresa May’s White Paper ends with the aim to have a ‘sovereign UK and a thriving EU’, with the UK being ‘secure, prosperous and tolerant’, and ‘a magnet for international talent and a home to the pioneers and innovators who will shape the world ahead.’




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