The EU debate you really should consider

'Europe'/ CC
Photograph: 'Europe'/ CC

With the EU referendum approaching thick and fast, we have to look at the less publicised factors of leaving, or, in fact, staying in the EU.  With our media dominated by economical and fear factors of terrorism and migration, we forget the consumer, cultural, environmental and innovation benefits of the EU that shape everyday life. Many of these forgotten factors are taken for granted and we do not look into the origins of those benefits brought forward by the continent.

One major contributing factor to remain in the EU is environmental policies, something the EU has pioneered and  enacted onto our government. Previous budgets outlined annual cuts around 8% in operating costs, and so far the cuts under Cameron have been equivalent to 34% in real term. These are estimated to equal 57% by 2020, this once again shows the failure of environmental progression in the UK. The lack of consideration our government has for our environment is fearful, and the only reason many of our environmental policies exist is due to EU pressure. For example, in recent years, as an approach to disperse pollution we pumped excrement into our seas, this led to poor quality drinking water. As well as this our sulphur dioxide levels were at a dangerous high, that led to acid rain in Scandinavia destroying their forests.

We can only blame our MPs, they continuing to dither on decisions to implement policies based on basic scientific principles once it is too late. Making policy-making a backwards and problematic approach as demonstrated by our refusal to back EU policies, such as restrictions on pesticides linked to bee decline. Neighbouring countries have been more progressive than here in the UK, including the outlined environmental provisions of the Lisbon treaty. The provisions outlined requires a law to be introduced if there’s a potential risk to human health or the environment until proven otherwise. This progression has benefited us with clean water, cleaner beaches and cleaner air with better restrictions on pollution coming from the continent. The EU also provides services in the form of carbon sequestration, pollination, food, and flood defences, that has still not received increased funding from the government despite heavy rainfall that destroyed many northern settlements here in the UK.

One of the huge advantages of the EU is science and innovation funding. The simple fact is our government does not have the funding to support scientific projects in the UK, but the EU does. We are the second largest recipient of EU research funds, and our government expects future EU funding for world-leading universities and companies. The funding we received from the FP7 calculated to £6.9bn, 15.4% of the available funding from the EU and recent figures show how the UK is the largest funded country of the European Research Council, which funds 1000 projects here in the UK. Without the EU, those funded programmes would slowly diminish. A glimpse into the future of a Brexit on science is Switzerland, who promised to provide funding to national science. They have failed massively, with major cutbacks, significant lost in projects and increasingly more people struggling to find jobs and students unable to access ERASMUS. Currently, we have 3.3% of the world’s scientific researchers who’s scientific output is 6.9% of global research, without the EU funding, we would see both figures drop. That would then have a butterfly effect slowing development of technology which disadvantages students and businesses and a possible lack of understanding in researched areas. The flip-side of this argument would be that a Brexit reduces regulations that many believe slowdown pharmaceutical advances.

MPs have also forgotten cultural factors, which comes in forms of, not just funding, but architectural, sporting and theatrical. The EU funds many cultural programmes with capital, investment and prizes in artistic areas including EU prize for Contemporary Architecture carrying a prize of £60,000. Within the sport, many international players would not meet automatic visa criteria once EU rules are retracted. Televised matches may decrease due to costing this may lead to higher bills to cover costs. In our theatrical sector in the UK, cast members would need visas to bring shows to Britain, and tariff costs would increase costings of those shows. This may lead to fewer productions from overseas or increased ticket prices.

Throughout the campaign so far, many of these aspects have still not been touched upon by the most influential people on either side of the argument. The ‘In’ campaign seem too defensive of the issues ‘Out’ campaigners raise, but those same campaigners never seem to touch upon the many benefits of being in the EU to our environment, culture and science. So all I can hope is that the electorate realises the greater potential and sees the larger scale of opportunity for our country within the EU. As we face a tough decision for our country, with the many pros, versus the argument we can govern ourselves, and the fear used to attack the EU. This, in my opinion, is simply not sufficient enough in an argument. Our lives would drastically change within the decade, without us ever realising the consequences. As David Cameron has said ‘it is a step into the unknown’, and this is one thing we know for sure, we do not know what will happen. The pros are stacking up, and at the beginning of these campaigns, many were undecided including me personally. But after conducting research, I myself will be voting in, no thanks to our opaque politicians.

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Callum Maher 2 Articles
Callum is a political activist and member of the Liberal Democrats. He has served as a school governor and a panel member on the Young Voices radio show. His interests include the EU, economics, the environment and welfare.