For the past 5 years there has been a large political shadow over the country, to the point where it has almost been over satirised: Brexit. As we’ve entered 2021, the government have been finishing off the last-minute details, but COVID has unfortunately overshadowed a lot of this process’ media coverage. In this article, I will briefly summarise how the UK science community will be affected going forward.
Firstly, a big issue for all international industries, is the trade and acquisition of resources. Although the UK is still a massive export power, it also imports a vast quantity of materials, and many of these come from the EU. For example, around 70% of all chemical imports come from EU member states.
We have to start thinking about how to access these resources now we are out of the EU, and it will take a lot of workers (and even more paperwork) to solve these problems. Trading in this area was previously overseen by REACH: Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of chemicals.
To replace this, the government has introduced UK REACH, and at first glance, it’s just a rip off of EU policy. Now for a lot of manufacturing and research will need to go through both UK and EU REACH, which will apply similar, but slightly different health and safety executive policies.
There are also other factors to consider besides trade. When the most recent UK budget was unveiled on March 3rd, the plan for the governmental increase in Research and Development was laid out.
This included a £22 Billion investment in the next 3-4 years that was announced last year. This is encouraging, however, the precise funding still leaves a lot of academics and policymakers uncertain.
In addition, this funding may fail to combat the current pressure on the charity sector due to the pandemic’s impact on the economy. This could have significant impact on research carried out by funding bodies such as Cancer Research UK.
Both the government and the scientific community are currently trying to ensure a revival for the economy in these uncertain times. Despite most to all of current resources being pooled into getting us out of the pandemic, there are still promising areas of development.
The requests of the scientific community are fairly simple in nature, despite being complex to fulfil. We want the chance to innovate, and for graduates and academics to find stable and invested futures beyond university. This new era for science, and this new era for the UK, doesn’t necessarily negate this. However, there will almost certainly be some more paperwork involved.