Science might emerge a winner from UK election chaos

Science might emerge a winner from UK election chaos

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Daily Mirror newspaper

Out of the chaos

Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

AFTER the storm, the calm – at least for now. As New Scientist went to press, the UK’s humiliated prime minister, Theresa May, was still trying to cobble together a deal to stay in office. The Democratic Unionist Party seems to hold the balance of power.

Beyond that, who knows? After needlessly plunging the UK into political chaos for the second time inside a year, the Conservative party is too busy trying to cling to power to articulate a coherent plan for governing the country.

Amid the political soap opera, serious issues are in play. The next few days and weeks will have great significance for science and enlightenment values generally.

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Much has already been written about the Tories’ prospective partners in government. The DUP’s antediluvian stances on the environment, abortion and evolution suggest they are unlikely to contribute much to evidence-based policymaking.

An even more pressing question for science is, whither Brexit? May justified calling the election by saying an increased majority would strengthen her hand in the negotiations. That was widely interpreted as her seeking a mandate for a hard withdrawal.

If so, the election result is a sigh of relief. May’s extreme interpretation of the referendum result is unpopular among scientists, to put it mildly. They fear that the UK would lose access to EU research funds and see opportunities for international collaboration weakened by tighter immigration controls.

Hard Brexit is now much less likely. Nonetheless, the new direction of travel is far from clear. “Consensus” appears to be the watchword, but it is possible that May will end up being held hostage by a hardline faction of her party. Another election or leadership race looks likely.

The minority government may be a lemon, but that is a chance to make lemonade. 105 MPs have a connection to science, technology or medicine. Now is a good time for them to press for policies – including on Brexit – that reflect pro-science values.

This article appeared in print under the headline “Out of the chaos”

More on these topics:

TECH|SCI

via New Scientist – News http://ift.tt/1Sl3dlX

June 19, 2017 at 06:18AM

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