PRIME minister Boris Johnson visited Oxfordshire to unveil a ‘fast-track visa route’ for scientists after Brexit and chat to Conservative activists.

He visited Culham Science Centre and then met party councillors and activists at an Abingdon hotel this morning.

Mr Johnson said the visa scheme will attract ‘elite researchers and specialists in science, engineering and technology’.

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He said: “What we want to see is a greater openness to top talent from around the world, particularly scientific top talent.

“So we’re going to turn the UK into a supercharged magnet, drawing scientists like iron filings from around the world, to help push forward projects like this, in which we can take not just a scientific lead, but a commercial lead as well.”

Despite making repeated requests, the Oxford Mail was not invited to either event by 10 Downing Street. It was Mr Johnson’s first official visit to the county as prime minister.

Oxford Mail: Boris Johnson at Culham Science Centre this morning. (Pic: Julian Simmonds/The Daily Telegraph/PA Wire)Boris Johnson at Culham Science Centre this morning. (Pic: Julian Simmonds/The Daily Telegraph/PA Wire)

The announcement was not welcomed by Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran. 

She said: “Today’s announcement doesn’t come close to making up for the loss of free movement, without which the UK’s universities and businesses will find it hard to attract the best scientists from elsewhere in the EU."

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It is understood the leader of Oxfordshire County Council, Ian Hudspeth, quizzed Mr Johnson at the strictly party-only event at the Hilton Garden Inn on whether his authority will still be able to keep infrastructure funding.

A source said the ‘performance’ sent ‘panic’ through the prime minister’s team, ‘who clearly had no idea’ who Mr Hudspeth was, the topic or its potential ramifications.

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Doubt has been cast on whether the county will be allowed to keep Housing Infrastructure Funding (HIF) for developments near Didcot if South Oxfordshire District Council’s Local Plan does not progress soon.

In some respects, Abingdon was an odd place for the prime minister’s meet and greet. The Conservatives do not have any councillors representing Abingdon at town, district or county council level after losing seats over recent years.

Witney’s Robert Courts was the only Oxfordshire MP to attend the party event.

Oxford Mail: The prime minister at Culham Science Centre (Pic: Julian Simmonds/The Daily Telegraph/PA Wire)The prime minister at Culham Science Centre (Pic: Julian Simmonds/The Daily Telegraph/PA Wire)

County councillor Liam Walker, who had been a persistent critic of Mr Johnson during the recent leadership race, tweeted a picture of them both.

He said: “Always good to meet another prime minister.”

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Deputy police and crime commissioner and Vale of White Horse councillor Matthew Barber tweeted a picture of himself shaking Mr Johnson’s hand.

Mr Barber tweeted: “Pleased to welcome Boris Johnson to Abingdon this morning. Continue to work closely on ensuring Thames Valley Police get their fair share of additional police officers from the 20,000 promised.”

Oxford Mail: Mr Johnson strikes a pose earlier todayMr Johnson strikes a pose earlier today

It is understood Conservative members were invited to meet Mr Johnson either on Wednesday or early on Thursday.

A member of hotel staff confirmed Mr Johnson, a former MP for Henley, had visited and had posed for selfies with staff.

They said: “It was cool. He came [to the hotel] but we weren’t allowed in the actual room [where he addressed members]. He shook all our hands and we got pictures."