LONDON (Reuters) - A group of Britain's most eminent scientists have endorsed the campaign for the UK to remain in the European Union, saying that leaving could damage research.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, published on Saturday, 13 Nobel Laureates including John Gurdon, Peter Higgs and Paul Nurse said the EU allows scientists to move freely and collaborate in ways that would be lost if Britain votes to quit the 28-member bloc. A referendum will be held on June 23.

The scientists also say that European funding would be cut if Britain voted to pull out of the 28-member EU.

"Brexit assertions that the Treasury will make up this shortfall are naive and complacent, given that successive governments have allowed Britain to languish well below the OECD and EU averages in its research investment as a proportion of GDP," they said in the letter.

"Science...flourishes in environments that pool intelligence, minimize barriers and are open to free exchange and collaboration."

Most polls ahead of the referendum have painted a contradictory picture, with neither side establishing a consistent lead. A British exit would have profound implications for politics and the economy in Britain and beyond.

The "Remain" campaign has received the backing of many well-known business leaders, big companies and banks as well as institutions such as the International Monetary Fund. Its "Leave" rivals have attracted less support from the ranks of big business.

However, on Friday billionaire entrepreneur James Dyson came out in favor of Britain exiting the EU, a significant endorsement for the "Leave" camp.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Mark Heinrich)