Stephen Hawking and more than 150 of the world’s other top scientists are calling for Great Britain to remain part of the European Union. They believe Brexit would be bad for science and universities in the U.K. In addition to Hawking, three Nobel laureates are among the big names in science to argue against a British exit from the EU.
Stephen Hawking doesn’t support Brexit
Hawking and the other scientists made their arguments in a letter sent to The Times today. They said Brexit would cut the U.K.’s ties with Europe and that losing those ties would be terrible for scientific research. The scientists said that increased funding has significantly advanced science in Europe and especially in the U.K. because the nation has “a competitive edge,” they wrote in the letter.
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They also said that some of their best researchers are recruited from continental Europe, including “younger ones who have obtained EU grants and have chosen to move with them here.” Stephen Hawking and the other scientists said it’s important for Britain’s future in science to be able to attract and also fund Europe’s most talented researchers and scientists. They said it also “encourages the best scientists elsewhere to come here.”
Further, they noted that Switzerland, which does belong to the European Union, has been struggling to attract young scientific talent since it voted to restrict workers’ free movement.
Is Stephen Hawking wrong about Brexit?
Forbes contributor Tim Worstall disagrees with Stephen Hawking on the topic of Brexit. He said the group of scientists who wrote the letter to oppose Brexit “entirely missed the economic point about science itself: that it’s a public good.” In other words, he said it doesn’t matter who does science or where they do it because it is a public good. Further, he said because science is a “public good,” there isn’t any public subsidy on it. Another characteristic of science being a “public good,” as he calls it, is that once scientific information is out, it’s “non-rivalrous and non-excludable,” meaning anyone can use research like Newton’s equations after it’s out.
Worstall also said the U.K. is a “net contributor to EU funds,” which means that by exiting the EU, the U.K. would then be able to spend more of its own money to fund scientific research.
U.K. citizens are set to vote on Brexit in a referendum in June.