EurActiv.com

EU news and policy debates across languages

07/12/2016

Leaving EU would harm British universities, lobby group warns

UK & Europe

Leaving EU would harm British universities, lobby group warns

British universities such as Cambridge could suffer if the UK leaves the EU, a lobby group has warned

[Kings College Cambridge/Flickr]

Britain must remain a member of the European Union if its higher education sector is to maintain its status, quality and research capabilities, a university lobby group said on Monday (27 July).

Prime Minister David Cameron is planning to renegotiate Britain’s ties to the EU and then, by the end of 2017, hold a referendum on whether the country should stay in the bloc.

“Brexit” would harm international academic collaboration, Julia Goodfellow, president-elect of Universities UK, is due to say later today at the launch of a university-led campaign attended by pro-EU lawmakers.

“The case for staying in Europe is about ensuring the future prosperity of the UK,” she will say.

“It’s about maximising the chances of new discoveries that enhance the society in which we live, it’s about the UK’s standing in the world, it’s about British jobs and it’s about opportunities for British people now and in the future.”

Those co-ordinating the wider campaign to keep Britain in the EU have underlined the importance of having a broad range of pro-European voices to avoid the perception that politicians and bankers are trying to bully voters into staying.

Finance minister George Osborne, Cameron’s lead negotiator in the push for EU reform, is due to meet French ministers on Monday – the second day of a diplomatic mission designed to win support for changes to EU rules.

>>Read: Osborne starts off EU reform roadshow in Paris

The Independent on Sunday reported that Britain would hold a referendum on EU membership within the next 12 months.

Background

Britain’s governing Conservative party won an absolute majority in the UK general election on 7 May 2015. With 12 more MPs than the other parties combined, the Conservatives no longer have to rely on a coalition partner.

Prime Minister David Cameron promised to renegotiate the UK's relations with the European Union. The renegotiation will be followed by a referendum by the end of 2017, to decide whether or not the United Kingdom should remain in the EU.

If he achieves the reforms, Cameron will campaign to stay in. Otherwise, the Conservatives might campaign to leave the EU. This decision could have far-reaching consequences for trade, investment and Great Britain's position on the international scene.

Some other European countries are ready to listen to Cameron's concerns on issues such as immigration, and may be prepared to make limited concessions to keep Britain in the bloc.

But EU leaders also have their red lines, and have ruled out changing fundamental EU principles, such as the free movement of workers, and a ban on discriminating between workers from different EU states.

>> Read our LinksDossier: The UK's EU referendum: On the path to Brexit?