British PM Boris Johnson unveils visa to lure ‘talented’ minds after Brexit

Jan. 27 (UPI) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a proposal designed to attract top scientists and mathematicians to Britain once it leaves the European Union later this week.

The plan is for an expedited travel program called a “global talent visa.” The program would replace Britain’s “exceptional talent” visa, under which endorsements for candidates were limited only to the Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering, the British Academy, Tech Nation or Arts Council England. Under the new visa, a British funding agency investing in science and research will also be able to recommend applicants.

Under the new visa, applicants also will not need a job offer before arriving in Britain and candidates will be assessed more quickly for settlement. The new visa will also remove the cap on the number of applications.

The new visa — which Johnson said will welcome the “most talented minds in the world” — will take effect Feb. 20.

More than three years after voters chose to break away from the European Union — and numerous failed attempts by British leaders to get an agreement through Parliament — Britain will exit the 28-nation bloc on Friday.

“As we leave the EU I want to send a message that the U.K. is open to the most talented minds in the world, and stand ready to support them to turn their ideas into reality,” Johnson said Monday.

The prime minister also announced nearly $392 million for mathematical and science research over the next five years, which doubles the funding for new doctorate degrees and increases math fellowships and research projects.

Liberal Democrats dismissed the new visa as a “marketing gimmick.”

“Boris Johnson is showing that he fundamentally doesn’t understand what makes our science sector so successful,” spokeswoman Christine Jardine said. “Changing the name of a visa and removing a cap that’s never been hit is not a serious plan.”