Eight Nobel laureates warned the government in Britain on Thursday that proposed curbs on immigration threaten the country's ability to recruit top scientists.

The laureates — all of them scientists — asked the government to reconsider plans to set a permanent immigration quota next year, which would dramatically cut levels of migration. The laureates argue that exceptions should be made for leading figures in science and industry — similar to ones made for star athletes.

"The government has seen fit to introduce an exception to the rules for Premier League footballers," the letter said. "It is a sad reflection of our priorities as a nation if we cannot afford the same recognition for elite scientists and engineers.

The scientists who signed the letter included this week's winners of the Nobel for physics, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov of the University of Manchester in England. The two Russian-born researchers shared the prize for their groundbreaking experiments with graphene, which is an ultra-thin sheet of carbon atoms.

Britain's immigration minister was quick to reject the appeal, arguing that the plans had been discussed with business leaders and other interested parties.

"It is our aim to reduce the level of net migration back down to the levels of the 1990s — tens of thousands each year, not hundreds of thousands," Damian Green said in a statement. "Introducing a limit on migrants from outside Europe coming here to work is just one of the ways we intend to achieve this."