After more than 43 years of collaboration the British people have decided they no longer want to be part of the European community. The result of today’s referendum won’t only have far-reaching consequences for trade and immigration, but also for technology.
For decades European institutions have closely worked together to develop some of the most influential technologies we know, such as the World Wide Web and the Large Hadron Collider. With Britain leaving the EU the collaboration between some of the best minds in science will become less common, greatly draining the potential of European research projects.
Since universities like Oxford and University College London are ranked among the best universities in the world, the loss of these institutions for European research projects will be substantial.
Aside having less institutions that will work together on groundbreaking research, there will also be less money to fund these projects. While EU member states will have a substantial amount of money to fund a wide range of research projects, Britain will now have to fund their own projects completely alone. This probably won’t only lead to less ambitious projects, but also to less meaningful results.
One of the first projects that comes to my mind in which the UK will probably no longer play a role is the European Space Agency (ESA). Since probably everyone agrees that the future of humanity is in space, the idea that a country would leave such an ambitious project seems a major loss to say the least. Sending the first people to Mars, building a permanent base on the moon, mining asteroids, building new telescopes that can discover alien life, it will all be things the United Kingdom will apparently not be a part of.
Furthermore, the Brexit can also have severe consequences for the level of talented people in the country. Every year thousands of European students study in the United Kingdom. Without free movement, the potential need for visas and all the other legislation associated to living outside the EU, talented students might think twice before they start a study and a career in the UK. On the long run this will have its impact on innovation, economic growth, and eventually the UK’s position in the world.
And talking about the UK’s position in the world. The EU is a market of over 500 million citizens, while power blocks in Asia and North America are even bigger. As a small isolated country of less than 63 million people it’s nearly impossible to play a significant role in the world. For this same reason I also won’t be surprised if investments will come to a stall and many of the international organisations that provide the country with hundreds of thousands of jobs will leave the UK as well.
All with all, the Brexit case doesn’t seem like an easy case to defend, and even less when it comes to technology. None the less the Brits believe it’s the best path to go. But whatever the Brits believe today, we must all start to realize that in the highly technological world we live in it’s essential to collaborate and to solve the issues of our time together. In the end everyone thrives when big problems are confronted and solved. This can best be done by working together and not by running away.