Tomorrow, at 11pm, the UK will be leaving the EU.
It is not the outcome that I wanted personally. But it is to be our new reality, and we must do all we can to make the best that we can of that new reality.
We must have a firm resolve that, while Brexit may appear to threaten decades of partnership with our European neighbours, we remain European at heart and are actively planning decades of future proactive partnership.
The first element of that is to continue to be open to our staff and students that we are entirely committed to that future as a European focused University. I can announce today that we will establish a new programme of funding so that anyone faced with visa or other immigration costs following Brexit, for themselves or their immediate family, can claim up to £5000 in support. More detail will be available in the coming days.
Our student numbers from the European Union are very encouraging, and we must continue to be open to those students in the future. And of course, we must back Erasmus+ fully while also preparing for how we can not only maintain exchanges, but increase mobility options in the future for students across Europe even if the government eventually decides that the UK should not remain in Erasmus or its successor.
Second, we must find ways to support research across the continent. Research is of course not national, it is global. We have enormously strong research links across the continent, and we will continue to ask government to associate with Horizon Europe or, if not, to create straightforward funding schemes to be able to work closely with our partners across Europe. This is particularly important for our early career researchers. We have around 200 such colleagues here at Warwick and they deserve to have access to these networks and research links in the future that so many of us have had in the past.
Third, of course we are deeply embedded in the new EUTOPIA alliance. This is not to overturn existing links in departments and schools, but is instead a way of growing a partnership across the whole university in mobility, joint education, and joint research. EUTOPIA is one of the three European University Alliances with a British partner. It is an important platform for our future.
Brexit is a highly emotive moment for many of us. The past three and a half years of uncertainty have been difficult for everyone, whichever side of the Brexit debate you stand on. But not a day has gone by when I haven’t been reliving the memory of when a public group in Stratford-upon Avon asked me not to abandon Europe and the Europeans that call our university and our region home. And I can assure you now that I have no intention of doing so.
Although I recognise the inevitability of the UK’s departure from the EU tomorrow, I also know that we have to make the best of this situation for our university and all of our staff and students, and also for our city and our region, and that is where I will be focussing my efforts in the future. It is possible to be a European university in a country outside the European Union and we are going to prove that.