Nobel winners urge British voters to remain in EU, warning Brexit would hurt funding
'We may be an island, but we cannot be an island in science,' 13 leading scientists write in letter
First it was statesmen, then soldiers, and finally CEOs. Now a group of scientists has urged U.K. voters to remain in the European Union, warning Saturday that Britain will lose funding, global influence and access to expertise if the nation votes to leave the 28-nation bloc.
Thirteen Nobel laureates wrote an open letter to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, arguing that the prospect of losing EU research funding was a key risk to science. They argued that the notion that Britain's Treasury can make up for any funding shortfall as "naive and complacent," given that successive governments have allowed support for research to languish.
"We may be an island, but we cannot be an island in science," they wrote. "Being part of the EU is good for British science and that is good for Britain."
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The signatories included Peter Higgs, who won the prize for predicting the existence of the so-called Higgs boson, physics laureate Kostya Novoselov, who pioneered the use of graphene, and geneticist Paul Nurse.
The letter is another in a cavalcade of interests who have expressed concern surrounding the upheaval that would follow should Britain vote to leave in the June 23 referendum. Political leaders, former generals and business leaders all have argued that the country would be less powerful, less safe and less prosperous outside the EU.
The appeals have been bolstered by warnings of economic turmoil from the International Monetary Fund, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Bank of England.
So dominant have been the voices of the Establishment in favour of the "Remain" camp that the promoters of a British exit — or Brexit — have dubbed their opponents "Project Fear."
On Saturday, inventor James Dyson backed the "Leave" campaign, saying that doing business on the continent persuaded him that the EU powers "protect vested interests." He said Prime Minister David Cameron and Treasury chief George Osborne were fundamentally wrong to work for "Remain."
"I don't just mean from the business point of view, I mean from the point of view of sovereignty," said Dyson, who is known for vacuum cleaners and other innovations that have earned him millions. "We will create more wealth and more jobs by being outside the EU. We will be in control of our destiny. And control, I think, is the most important thing in life and business."
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The campaign to remain in the EU has focused much of its fire on former London Mayor Boris Johnson, the most prominent member of the so-called Brexit campaign.
In a more whimsical moment, a group of "Remain" backers donned blond wigs and masks to dress up like Johnson and mobbed former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith as he campaigned in Harlow in eastern England for Britain to leave.
"You never show panic and they are definitely showing panic at the moment," Duncan Smith said. "This personal abuse, the old rule of thumb in politics is that once you start getting abused you must be doing something right."