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Scientists vs. Brexit

Scientists were among those marching in London on March 23 as part of a demonstration calling for the terms of Brexit to be put to a vote, Nature News reports.

Some researchers said they were protesting to demand a reversal of Brexit as the looming split was already negatively affecting recruitment, EU researchers' willingness to enter into collaborations, and supply chains for laboratory materials, Nature News says.

The scientists' rally was organized by the campaign group Scientists for EU and was part of a wider protest coordinated by organizations such as Open Britain, a pro-Europe group that opposes aspects of UK Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal. The deal would allow the UK to leave the EU and enter a 20-month transition period in which the UK-EU relationship — including science funding and immigration rules — would stay largely the same, Nature News says. In those 20 months, the two sides would negotiate the terms of the UK's future relationship with the EU.

But this deal has been controversial for many reasons, and has been voted down in Parliament.

Organizers expected 300,000 people from around the UK to take part in the march, but reports on crowd sizes suggested that up to 1 million people may have attended, Nature News reports.

University of Manchester clinical scientist Angella Bryan tells Nature News, "This is our future and we are wasting money by not being in the EU. So we need to be here and forget about Brexit." 

And Stephen McLaughlin, a biophysicist at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, says that he marched to support UK science and had just returned from a biophysics meeting in Zagreb that brought together European researchers.

"We share ideas, best practice, and we can get funding for short-term visits," he tells Nature News. "It is really important that we use our neighbours to increase and enhance our science in the UK. Everybody is quite nervous about what is going to happen."

If the deal does not pass, May has until April 12 April to figure out what to do, or the so-called no-deal Brexit scenario will happen where the UK will be forced to leave the EU without any trade or immigration agreements in place. This is widely predicted to cause chaos, Nature News says, as it would cut Britain off from EU research funding overnight and disrupt clinical trials, data collection, and the import of lab supplies. 

More than four million people have now signed a petition on Parliament's website demanding that Brexit be stopped, the article adds.