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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan extends cautious welcome to UK PM’s new visa plan

The plans were criticised by several scientists, who believe they could in no way compensate for the damage that would ensue from Johnson’s intention to leave the European Union on October 31 without an agreement.

world Updated: Aug 09, 2019 18:29 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan
Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan(Photo: nobelprize.org)
         

Nobel laureate Venki Ramakrishnan, who is also president of the Royal Society, on Friday extended a cautious welcome to post-Brexit plans to fast-track visas for top scientists and researchers announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The plans were criticised by several scientists, who believe they could in no way compensate for the damage that would ensue from Johnson’s intention to leave the European Union on October 31 without an agreement.

Ramakrishnan said the Royal Society has long called for reform of the UK’s costly and complex visa system which acts as a barrier to attracting the best international talent, but said he welcomed the new plans and will look forward to its details.

Like other scientists, Ramakrishnan also cautioned about the implications of a no-deal Brexit: “But the fact remains, half of international academic talent in UK universities comes from the European Union and the EU is our single largest research collaborator”.

“Alongside immigration reform, therefore, maintaining close working ties with researchers in Europe and access to EU research funding, are essential. A ‘no-deal’ exit from the EU is the worst option for science.”

Details of Johnson’s plans have not been released, but he said: “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”.

But his plans were ridiculed by the discoverer of graphene, the Nobel prize-winning physicist Andre Geim, who told The Times: “The government may try and reduce the barriers to entry for scientists but they cannot reduce turmoil that would be caused to science in the UK by a no-deal Brexit. Scientists are not fools. They know that turmoil is inevitable for many years.”

Johnson announced the plans on a visit to the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire.

First Published: Aug 09, 2019 18:01 IST