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London university claims its foreign academics barred from consulting on Brexit

The London School of Economics has said that its foreign professors can no longer apply to advise Britain's foreign ministry on Brexit issues. The ministry rejected the allegations, albeit without fully addressing them.

The London School of Economics (LSE) said on Friday that employees without a UK passport would no longer be allowed to apply to provide advice to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on Brexit-related issues. 

Reports first circulated on Thursday, when Sara Hagemann, an Assistant Professor at LSE who originally comes from Denmark, wrote that she was told that she and her non-UK passport-holding colleagues "no longer qualify" for Brexit advisory positions.

A memo to LSE staff from interim director Julia Black was posted on Twitter by Simon Hix, a political science professor at the university, on Friday.

In the memo, Black writes that "the Foreign Office have advised us that they will be issuing tenders to contract for advisory work, but that only UK nationals will be eligible to apply." Black continues by saying that although the Foreign Office has long employed a rule which restricts the nationality of its own employees, "the extension of the bar to advisory work seems to be new."

A public statement from the LSE stressed that "any changes to security measures are a matter for the UK government," but said they were standing by their international employees who offer "highly valuable expertise."

FCO: 'nothing has changed' since referendum

A Foreign Office spokesman said later on Friday in a statement that "nothing has changed as a result of the referendum" when it comes to regular work with academic institutions seeking policy advice. 

"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," the statement said. "Britain is an outward-looking nation and we will continue to take advice from the best and brightest minds regardless of nationality."

The statement did not directly address LSE's claims or explain how government advisor Juila Black had come to formally alert her university colleagues to a change in policy.

Britain voted in a June 23 referendum to leave the European Union. Formal negotiations on the UK leaving the European Union are yet to begin, but Prime Minister Theresa May recently said she would trigger Article 50 by the end of March of next year.

The British government has drawn censure from some in the academic and economic spheres for the government's hard-line stances on immigration and relations with the EU.

A proposal from Home Secretary Amber Rudd drew sharp criticism this week from British businesses when she said companies could be forced to disclose what percentage of their workers hailed from foreign countries. She later said it was only a proposal and that the government was not committed to the idea.

rs/msh (AP, AFP)

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