of politics and science champion Europe


In the week that marks ‘Europe Day’ – an annual celebration of peace and unity in Europe – three giants of British politics and science, Ken Clarke MP, Lord Chris Patten and Lord Robert Winston – visited Regent’s University London to discuss the EU referendum and its implications for UK universities.

The 10 May 2016 event was organised by Universities UK as part of its ‘Universities for Europe’ campaign, which aims to highlight the value of the UK’s membership of the EU.

Regent’s mission

Welcoming the speakers and over 300 guests from business, the public sector and academia, Vice Chancellor of Regent’s University London, Professor Aldwyn Cooper, said: 

“With 80% of our students from outside the UK, internationalism and global development is at the heart of Regent’s mission. 

“We believe universities should be identifying and taking a key interest in these important public issues, particularly in matters affecting the future economic health, security and social cohesion of students’ lives.

“It has been a great disappointment to me that the BREXIT camp has been unable to offer any clear, supported picture of how Britain would be able to operate if we left Europe.”

In a debate chaired by journalist and news presenter Daisy McAndrew, comments from the speakers included:

Ken Clarke MP:

  • The BREXIT camp wants an end to freedom-of-movement. I'm forever dealing with ridiculous academic visa problems
  • We're more valuable to the Americans & our European neighbours inside the EU
  • It's rather good we have a Muslim mayor of London
  • Any treaty you sign inhibits your sovereignty, but enhances your influence
  • Demographics show overwhelmingly that young people want to stay in Europe
  • [BREXIT] has huge implications, but the public don't know much about it. The media treat it as the ‘Boris & Dave’ show
  • The only point of the BREXIT campaign is to make Britain less open and have fewer foreigners


Lord Chris Patten:

  • The question is: do we want to shape the future or go back to a fictitious past?
  • Running a university is already a difficult job. Leaving the EU would make it even more difficult
  • The worrying drain of UK postgraduates to the US would be made worse by BREXIT
  • Sovereignty is a slippery subject. If I was a steel worker in Port Talbot what would it mean? It's pretty complicated
  • Look at bookies' odds, not polls on the chances of BREXIT happpening
  • I hate referendums, they undermine parliamentary democracy
  • Few world leaders understand why the UK would want to leave Europe


Lord Robert Winston:

  • Proximity and scale make collaboration with Europe a priority and working with European partners has been far more fruitful than with any other region
  • When Boris [Johnson] says he's thought about BREXIT a great deal he's probably spent about 10 to 15 minutes on it
  • The Labour Party hasn't been talking enough about our educational system in Europe
  • There is no way the UK would be on equal footing for research-funding following BREXIT
  • We are training the opposition [in science] if we leave the EU