University staff call on Norwich election candidates in EU workers rights pledge
- Credit: Joakim Boren
General election candidates standing in Norwich's two constituencies are today being asked to commit themselves to fighting for EU workers' rights should they be elected next week.
Staff at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have written to all candidates for the Norwich North and Norwich South seats and asked them to sign up to a pledge that would see them add their support to a campaign to get the government to grant existing EU nationals the right to remain in the UK.
Members of the university's University and College Union (UCU) branch are worried that, unless the government guarantees the rights of EU workers, the country could suffer a brain drain of some of the best and brightest academics from UK universities to other countries.
Overall at UEA, one in 10 of the total staff are from the EU.
That figure rises to 16pc for the academic workforce and EU staff account for a quarter of the university's researchers. The union branch has asked all candidates to sign a pledge confirming they would pressure the next government to secure the rights of EU nationals by the end of the year.
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The call comes after a report at the end of April, from the influential House of Commons Education Committee, said the government should be prepared to unilaterally agree the rights of EU nationals, regardless of whether or not the government secured a reciprocal deal with the other EU member states.
Nikos Skoutaris, a UEA law lecturer and UCU spokesperson said: 'Hundreds of our colleagues at UEA are from the EU. Like thousands in other universities, if their future is not urgently secured they may choose to leave. Across Norfolk and the UK we could see a brain-drain of talent, causing disruption and damage to our universities.
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'Funding for university research is already being damaged by Brexit. If vital international staff leave and UK universities decline, student numbers will diminish as well, damaging the local economy. University contracts, employees and students are a vital source of income for many local businesses in university cities like Norwich.
'The incoming government must fix this, quickly, regardless of Brexit negotiations. We must guarantee the rights of EU staff to continue to live and work in the UK.'