Brexit: safeguarding our people and values

Brexit CMS

Even to seasoned Parliamentary watchers, last night’s debates and votes in the House of Commons appear contradictory. By a slim majority, Parliament has asked to reopen renegotiations on the backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement, something EU negotiators have repeatedly ruled out. A non-binding vote indicated Parliament would reject a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, but the default date in law for exiting the EU with or without a deal remains 29 March. What is certain is that the clock towards that date remains ticking. 

In all my years in the UK, I have never known such troubling and uncertain times, made worse by entrenched factions within government and a lack of political leadership across party lines. I know this remains an unsettling time for all staff and students in our University community, as much as the nation at large. I will ensure that I share updates with you as and when we have them.

For now, in the light of last night’s events, we are further stepping up contingency planning for a ‘No Deal’ scenario.  This includes confirming the impact on the supply chains that provide research materials, goods and services; ensuring that campus security is a top priority; working as much as possible to avoid disruption of travel arrangements to the Continent; and taking account of other contractual and legal issues.  

A ‘No Deal’ incident team has been meeting for several months. Among their work, they have asked every School and Professional Services area to identify dedicated Brexit contacts to assist with No Deal planning and respond rapidly to specific queries or issues at local level.   

The University’s EU Taskforce continues to prepare for a post-Brexit environment, developing approaches to protect student recruitment, research partnerships, funding and grants. We have been working through the Russell Group and UUK to highlight the impact of Brexit on our staff, students and research, and we have offered regular briefings to our MPs.

These are important practical measures. Just as important to me is ensuring that we safeguard the values that make us who we are. Although I have said it many times, it bears repeating that as a globally-focused University, we should reinforce our global values and do everything we can to support our EU colleagues.  

Whatever the Brexit outcome, our University will remain a community devoted to global scholarship and diversity and will continue to celebrate and nurture our staff, students and alumni from more than 190 countries worldwide. We will maintain our global research, teaching and organisational partnerships reaching out from our campuses in the UK, China and Malaysia to Europe and across the world.

Many of you will have seen the personal story on the BBC of one of our colleagues, Dr Denis Schluppeck, a German national, his wife, Ileana, a Greek national who works as a consultant at QMC, and their three British children. Their story will no doubt resonate with European staff who have lived and contributed greatly to this country over many years. These colleagues are understandably distressed at being made to feel strangers in a country they consider their home.  Many people in our community will be similarly affected by the current circumstances. I ask that we support each other and be mindful of how different colleagues and students might be feeling.

I hope that all of our 800 EU colleagues will sign up for the EU Settlement Scheme, now free of charge. Whatever criticisms we can justifiably make of this scheme, we want you to stay. The University will celebrate our EU staff and their enormous and continuing contribution at the EU Staff Event on 19 March. I also ask all staff to contribute to our continued No Deal planning in any way that they feel is appropriate.

In closing, I wish to thank you all for the commitment and contribution you make to the University of Nottingham every day and for your mutual support and collegiality. We have never needed such an environment more than we do now.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West signature

Professor Shearer West

30 January 2019

University of Nottingham

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