Neither doctors or patients have anything to fear from leaving the EU
BY ANGUS DALGLEISH
Boris Johnson has pledged to make it easier for scientists to settle in Britain after we leave the EU. You’d assume that a fast-tracked visa system would be welcomed by Britain’s scientific community. Wrong. Establishment figures queued up to criticise the proposal.
Nobel laureate Professor Sir Andre Geim accused the PM of “taking scientists for fools”, adding that his longtime collaborator Konstantin Novoselov had already left the UK to work in Singapore. “I think that tells you everything you need to know.’’ But why would Novoselov decide to move to the Far East, rather than, say, France or Germany, if the EU were such a centre of enlightened thought? Singapore has gone to great lengths to attract the best and brightest – an approach Mr Johnson and his team are thankfully aping.
Geim’s defeatism perfectly embodies the europhile dogma that has captured the scientific community. Such is their Stockholm Syndrome-level commitment to the Project that they cannot bring themselves to praise even something clearly in their interests, simply because it emanates from a pro-Brexit government.
Practitioners of the scientific method analyse the facts before arriving at judgments. Yet many of my fellow scientists seem woefully unable to apply this process to the EU debate. They downplay Britain’s illustrious scientific record and conflate a bloated bureaucracy with the principle of collaborating with colleagues around the world. At the start of my career, long before the advent of Lisbon and Maastricht, every laboratory I worked in was at least 50 per cent non-British. And EU membership is no precursor to collaboration with EU scientists; just ask Israel and even Tunisia.
We have much to gain from shaking off the EU’s anti-innovative precautionary approach, which more often serves the interests of lobbyists than consumers. Not only do we put far more into the EU coffers than we receive, much of what we “invest” in EU scientific schemes is channelled towards questionable non-scientific projects. It’s no coincidence that few great inventions come out of these programmes.
True, many europhile academics are beneficiaries, but this blinds them to the politicised allocation of funding. I have seen first hand how this process operates, having spent time in Brussels reviewing grants, supposedly on scientific merit. Our true role soon became clear – rubber-stamping pre-approved decisions to give a veneer of accountability. (I complained that this was unfair peer-review and have not been invited back since!)
Operating independently of this turgid setup is one of the prizes of Brexit. And the pro-EU idiot-savants are living proof of Richard Feynman’s maxim: “even great scientists working outside their own speciality can be just as dumb as the next guy.”
Angus Dalgleish is Professor of Medical Oncology, St George’s University of London. [This article originally appeared in The Telegraph and is republished with permission].