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Scientists to get fast-track visas so UK is ‘welcoming’

Tub-thumping: Boris Johnson is passionate in support of science and Brexit  PICTURE: FACEBOOK

SCIENTISTS are to be offered fast-track visas to encourage more to come to the UK, Boris Johnson has announced.

Speaking in a Facebook Live video-stream from Downing Street, the prime minister said relaxing immigration rules would make ‘the UK even more open, even more welcoming to scientists from around the world’.

‘I want this country to be the greatest place for science, the greatest place to start a business and to invest, the greatest place to bring up your kids and send them to school, the greatest place to live. That is the mission,’ he said as he was filmed in front of a patriotic flag and a London double-decker bus

Under the plans, a speedy visa route will be created for foreign scientists and the Home Office and the Department of Business have been instructed to work with the science sector to develop it. They hope to launch it later this year.

The science sector has been one of the most critical about Britain leaving the European Union. Last month, Wellcome Trust chairwoman Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller warned against a no-deal Brexit.

She said most of its annual £1billion support for research was spent in the UK as it had a ‘thriving sector’. ‘Leaving the EU without a deal is a threat to that,’ she added.

The fast-tracking will be designed to attract researchers and specialists in science, engineering and technology. Options that the government said could be discussed with institutions and universities include abolishing the 2,000-per-year cap on the number of Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visas.

Other potential changes include expanding the pool of British research institutions that can endorse immigration candidates and creating criteria that confers automatic endorsement, subject to immigration checks. Scientists’ dependants could also have access to work without having an earlier offer.

The scheme could complement plans for an Australian-style points-based immigration system.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson has urged MPs to ‘get on and deliver’ Brexit. He and chancellor Sajid Javid want a 12-month spending round to be completed in September, before the October 31 deadline.