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Non-U.K. Academics Banned from Giving Brexit Advice

by AFP
Leon Neal—AFP

Leon Neal—AFP

British government has told London School of Economics it only wants briefings from U.K.-passport holders.

The British government does not want academics from the London School of Economics who do not have U.K. passports to give Brexit briefings to officials, a spokesman for the university told AFP on Friday.

LSE staff has been briefing the foreign ministry on scenarios around leaving the European Union but the famous institution has now been told that submissions from non-British staff will not be accepted. “Some of our experts who were contributing will not be able to contribute because they are not U.K. nationals,” a spokesman for the LSE said after a complaint by Assistant Professor Sara Hagemann.

The Foreign Office did not deny the report, saying in a statement: “It has always been the case that anyone working in the FCO may require security clearance depending on the nature and duration of their work.” But it added: “Britain is an outward-looking nation and we will continue to take advice from the best and brightest minds, regardless of nationality.”

Hagemann, who is originally from Denmark, wrote on Twitter on Thursday: “U.K. govt. previously sought work & advice from best experts. Just told I & my colleagues no longer qualify as not U.K. citizens.” Hagemann teaches at the LSE’s European Institute, which she joined in 2009. She has held research and policy positions in Brussels, Copenhagen and London, according to her biography on the LSE website.

Reports said up to nine academics could be affected.

An internal memo posted on Twitter by LSE professor Simon Hix said: “Whilst the Foreign Office has long had a rule restricting the nationality of employees or secondees, the extension of the bar to advisory work seems to be new. However, it is for the Foreign Office to determine what its national security arrangements are, and their legality, not for us.”

The university said in a statement that its academics were regularly called to advise the government. “We believe our academics, including non-U.K. nationals, have hugely valuable expertise, which will be vital in this time of uncertainty around the U.K.’s relationship with Europe and the rest of the world,” it said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will initiate talks on leaving the European Union by the end of March, following a shock referendum in June in which Britain voted to end its 43-year membership. One of the key issues in the referendum campaign was the impact of immigration on British society and May has said she plans to clamp down on E.U. arrivals.

A government proposal to make businesses publish lists of foreign workers sparked fierce controversy this week after interior minister Amber Rudd revealed it at the Conservative party conference.

The LSE opened in 1895 and has become famous as a global hub for economic and political thinking. Its alumni include billionaire financier George Soros and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

Hollywood star and U.N. refugee agency envoy Angelina Jolie is currently a visiting professor at the LSE.

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