Russian-born physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov joined eight other Nobel laureates to warn Thursday that new immigration rules could prevent the world's best brains working in Britain.
Geim and Novoselov won the Nobel Physics Prize this week for research done at Manchester University, but under the government's cap on immigration from outside the European Union might never have been allowed to work in Britain.
"The UK has long had a reputation as a global centre of research excellence. It is not only our world-class institutions, but also our inclusive culture which has attracted the world's best scientists to come and work here," the scientists said in a letter to The Times newspaper.
The letter said the work of foreign-born scientists who choose to come to Britain to carry out their research had been "enriching and enhancing British science and society for decades."
They said the immigration cap "would damage our ability to recruit the brightest young talent, as well as distinguished scientists, into our universities and industries."
The scientists protested that the government had agreed to introduce an exception to the rules for non-EU footballers in England's lucrative Premier League.
"It is a sad reflection of our priorities as a nation if we cannot afford the same recognition for elite scientists and engineers," they wrote.
The signatories also included the joint winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Martin Evans, and Harry Kroto, who shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Geim and Novoselov were awarded the physics prize for their pioneering work on graphene, a form of carbon that could revolutionise computers and electronics.
Explore further: Thomas Edison's 'lost' idea: A device to hear the dead