Newcastle University researchers warn 'No Deal' Brexit will be a 'disaster'

John Walton Centre Credit: ITV News

By Kris Jepson

Researchers from one of Newcastle University's world leading medical research centres have told ITV News Tyne Tees that a 'No Deal' Brexit will be a "disaster" for the unit.

The consultants and academics, who work at the John Walton Muscular Dystrophy Research Centre, said some of the EU funded projects have already been "taken away" from them and given to universities on the Continent.

Watch @krisjepson's report here:

Professor Volker Straub is German and he heads up the John Walter Muscular Dystrophy Research Centre, a collaboration between Newcastle University and Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

He says he is concerned about the prospect of a "no deal" Brexit and may even have to consider his own future in the UK if it happens.

The 'no deal' would be the disaster for researchers. In our centre, specifically, 30 per cent of our staff are from the EU. We have been asked to give away projects that we were leading. You want to lead. You want to be seen as the coordinator, the driving force behind research, for patients in particular, and some of this is already going now to colleagues in the continent.

Prof Volker Straub
Rebecca Leary Credit: ITV News

One of Professor Straub's colleagues has already lost her job following the EU referendum in 2016.

The EU funding for the project she managed was withdrawn and she found herself out of work.

I’ve now been made redundant due to Brexit, which is devastating for me. On a professional level, the project which I’ve worked so hard on for the last 18 months has been forced to move to Paris due to the risk of a 'no deal'. Personally it’s very upsetting. I absolutely love my job and I love working in this team, but for the patients as well, it's devastating.

Rebecca Leary

Newcastle University Vice-Chancellor Professor Chris Day said he is backing other university heads, representing 150 UK institutions, who today signed an open letter to MPs warning a 'no deal' Brexit is “one of the biggest threats our universities have ever faced."

They claimed leaving the EU without a deal in March, could lead to an "academic, cultural and scientific setback, which would take decades to recover."

This would be a difficult divorce, all those negotiations around funding and staff and students would disappear and our students would simply be treated as foreigners. Our staff would suddenly feel extremely unwanted and our idea of playing a part in the 90bn new European research funding which will start in 2020 just goes out the window.

Prof Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor, Newcastle University
John Walton Centre Credit: ITV News

Critics say the letter from university vice chancellors is nothing more than Remainer "scare mongering", but the researchers at this particular centre are adamant that their concerns have foundation.

A UK Government spokesperson said:

“Science recognises no borders and the UK has a proud record of welcoming the world’s leading scientists and researchers to work and study here. This will not change when we leave the EU.

“Through our modern Industrial Strategy we are investing the highest ever level in research and development in UK history and we are committed to seeking an ambitious future relationship on science and innovation with our EU partners. We are also guaranteeing, in the event of a no deal, money for EU programme-funded research and innovation projects agreed before the end of 2020.”