04/01/2019 00:01 GMT | Updated 04/01/2019 10:05 GMT

No-Deal Brexit Could Put Cancer Treatment And Climate Change Research At Risk, Universities Warn

"Vital research links will be compromised".

Universities have warned ministers of the risks to research, staff and students if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal.

Higher education bosses said a “no-deal” Brexit would “compromise” vital studies into cancer treatments and climate change.

In an joint open letter, bodies representing unis, including Universities UK, the Russell Group, Guild HE, MillionPlus and University Alliance, said of leaving the EU without a deal: “The valuable exchange of students, staff and knowledge would be seriously damaged.”

“[W]e share the concerns of business about the impact of no deal on everything from supply chains to security and travel,” the letter, sent to ministers and politicians of all parties, added.

The organisations cited billions of pounds in research funded through the European Research Council (ERC) they claimed would be thrown into jeopardy if politicians fail to vote through Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement later this month.

Several high-profile projects funded by the ERC in the UK in recent years include a scalpel which tells surgeons whether tissue they are cutting is cancerous, and batteries for electric cars which re-charge in minutes.

Previous studies have suggested thousands of British-based, European academics have left their jobs and returned to the continent since the Brexit vote in 2016.

Meanwhile, new data from Russell Group institutions found there had been a 3% decline in the number of EU students enrolling in courses this year.

The University College Union, which represents staff, has said before that research projects are at risk of complete collapse in a no-deal scenario.

Professor Dame Janet Beer, president of Universities UK, said: “We are home to one of the best research systems in the world, attractive to stellar academics, top students and global partnerships, and we must not let this be compromised by a no deal Brexit.

“Time is running out to make decisions on issues which will ultimately affect the country and society as a whole.”

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester, said: “Researchers who have already spent months or even years preparing funding bids would be left high and dry, including those whose application would be stuck in the middle of the evaluation process.”