BRITISH science could be crippled by Brexit, 29 Nobel prizewinners have warned in a letter to the Prime Minister.

Sir Paul Nurse, the British geneticist who won his Nobel for pioneering work on cancer therapy and tumour diagnosis, said the “increasing chaos” around Brexit was “causing huge concern”.

Scottish universities minister Richard Lochhead agreed, saying that even if the Prime Minister managed to secure a deal with the EU that it would lead to “long-term damage to the scientific interests of all parts of the UK”.

“The negative impact of Brexit on research and innovation in Scotland cannot be underestimated,” he warned.

The letter was backed up by a survey of more than 1000 staff at the Crick Institute, the biggest biomedical research lab in Europe, which found that 97% of the boffins working there believed a hard Brexit would be bad for UK science and 82% thought it would have a detrimental effect on European science.

Nurse said: “This survey reveals the depth of feeling amongst scientists that a hard Brexit will seriously damage research, and that the UK Government is not paying enough attention to science in the Brexit negotiations.

“Science and research matter for economic growth, health and quality of life, and the environment. The overwhelming negativity of scientists towards a hard Brexit should be a wake-up call.

“A hard Brexit could cripple science and the UK Government needs to sit up and listen.”

UK science minister, Sam Gyimah, defended his government’s preparations: “We all recognise that a chaotic Brexit will be a significant setback for science,” he said. “That is why we have got a plan to ensure that, deal or no deal, there will be no cliff-edge for UK science.”

Gyimah said there were “unprecedented amounts of money going into UK science – £7 billion in the next five years – that is more than we have ever invested in research and development”.

Lochhead said: “It is becoming ever more clear that leaving the EU, even with a Withdrawal Agreement, will cause long-term damage to the scientific interests of all parts of the UK.

“The negative impact of Brexit on research and innovation in Scotland cannot be underestimated.”

He added: “Ensuring continued mobility of research staff and students after Brexit is crucial to maintaining our scientific excellence in Scotland.

“The UK Government must change course immediately and seek membership of the customs union and single market in order to limit the damage of leaving the EU.”

Meanwhile, one of the UK’s most prominent Brexit supporting businessman has been criticised after he announced plans to build a new factory in Singapore rather than the UK.

Sir James Dyson chose Singapore to make his new electric car because of its proximity to “high-growth markets” in Asia.

The firm’s chief executive, Jim Rowan, told staff: “The decision of where to make our car is complex, based on supply chains, access to markets, and availability of the expertise that will help us achieve our ambitions.”

The billionaire had previously said Brexit would, “supercharge British technology”.