London School of Economics says Britain barred foreign experts from Brexit work

LONDON (Reuters) - A British government official told the London School of Economics that foreign academics should not do advisory work for the government on Britain’s exit from the European Union, the university said.

The row with LSE added spice to a tumultuous week for British politics which saw Prime Minister Theresa May announce a date for triggering Brexit, sterling plunge and a senior minister propose firms disclose what percentage of their workforce was non-British.

According to the LSE, a Foreign Office official told an academic at the School that only UK passport holders could do consultancy work on a Brexit project being worked on by the LSE for the government.

“We believe our academics, including non–UK nationals, have hugely valuable expertise, which will be vital in this time of uncertainty around the UK’s relationship with Europe and the rest of the world,” the LSE said in a statement.

“The UK government regularly calls upon LSE’s world-class academics for their advice on a range of issues,” the LSE said.

The London School of Economics and Political Science, or LSE, is one of the world’s top universities, which counts financier George Soros, Rolling Stone Mick Jagger and former U.S. President John F. Kennedy among its alumni.

With around 9,600 full time students from 140 countries, the LSE is one of Britain’s most internationally diverse universities. It says over 100 languages are spoken on its campus in central London.

A spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office, or FCO, declined to directly address the row but said when asked for comment that it may require security clearance and that it sought the best advice regardless of nationality.

“The FCO regularly works with academic institutions to assist in its policy research and nothing has changed as a result of the referendum,” the foreign ministry said. “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.”

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

But Sara Hagemann, a Danish assistant professor at the LSE’s European Institute, said on Twitter: “UK govt previously sought work & advice from best experts. Just told I & many colleagues no longer qualify as not UK citizens.”

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Mark Trevelyan