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Why The ‘God Particle’ Would Survive Brexit

Saheli June 22, 2016 Technology Comments Off on Why The ‘God Particle’ Would Survive Brexit

A general view of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment is seen during a media visit at the Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in the French village of Saint-Genis-Pouilly near Geneva in Switzerland

What would happen to the UK’s science and technology industries if the country votes to leave the EU?

:: Scientific Funding

Scientists in the UK received €8.8bn (£6.8bn) in research funding from the EU from 2007-2013, according to the Royal Society – more than the €5.4bn (£4.1bn) we contributed over the same period.

If the country votes to leave the EU no research grants will be revoked, so there will be no immediate cut in funding.

However, scientists will be left in the dark about whether they should be applying for new funds from the European Research Council, which could pause research.
Longer term, that €3.4bn (£2.6bn) gap in scientific funding would have to be met by the UK government to maintain investment in research and development.

:: Scientific Collaboration

Two of the biggest scientific projects on the continent – the European Space Agency and CERN (which operates the Large Hadron Collider) – have nothing to do with the EU and so would be unaffected by Article 50.

So the ‘God particle’ (or Higgs Boson) would survive Brexit.

Professor Frenk, a cosmologist and author of a Royal Society review of the EU and scientific funding, believes more casual collaborations between European scientists would, longer term, be more difficult.

“We won’t have access to the same network,” he told Sky News.

“We would lose the ease with which we would collaborate with colleagues.”

Nevertheless, the biggest foreign power we collaborate with currently is not the EU, but the US. That would be unaffected.
:: Technology Talent

One of the loudest complaints you hear from technology start-ups in the UK is how hard it is to find technical talent – the engineers and data scientists to build platforms.

A Brexit vote would exacerbate the problem immediately, as European techies at least reconsider moving to the UK.

:: Economic Myth Vs Reality Ahead Of EU Vote

The UK would also likely miss out on the next round of European tech giants setting up base here.

The founders of Spotify and Transferwise, for example, set up their first bases in London, bringing jobs (and tech kudos) to the capital.

UK technology companies may also lose access to the mooted European Single Digital Market, but this is unlikely to have much effect because US technology companies have shown it is extremely possible to make money outside it.

:: Your Personal Data
Bear with me here. The EU has just passed new privacy regulation – the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – replacing the UK’s current Data Protection Act.

Basically, the new law increases the protection of your privacy online, restricting what companies can and cannot do with your personal information.

At the same time, the UK government is seeking to bring its Investigatory Powers Bill – which grants more powers to intelligence agencies for bulk surveillance – into law by the end of this year.

:: Pound And FTSE 100 Soar On Referendum Polling

In the case of Brexit, this would lead – fairly immediately – to the following situation, according to Mahmoud Handy, the director of Detracker, an online privacy advisory firm: “UK companies, charities and universities will put more effort into the protection of privacy rights for Irish, German, Polish and other European citizens than for English users and students.”

The counter argument is that, freed from EU law, the intelligence agencies will be better able to protect UK citizens.

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