The definition of irony?

The Vote Leave campaign is claiming that the UK is a science super power; and they are using that as an argument for why we don’t need the EU. The question is where exactly does the money that makes the UK a science super power come from?

Since 2009 the amount spent on publicly funded research in the UK has been reduced every single year. It has now hit an all-time low at less than 0.5% of the GDP. This means that the UK is now last among the G8 countries in terms of public spending on research.

On the other hand there is EU’s framework programme for research and innovation called Horizon 2020. This is literally the biggest pot of research money in the world, distributing approximately €80 billion from 2014-2020. Scientists based in the UK have been very successful in the competition for this money. In the first round they came out on top as the country with most funded projects in the entire EU worth almost €1 billion.

If the UK leaves EU it is uncertain how much of Horizon 2020 the UK would be allowed to participate in, if any at all. Just ask the Swiss who ran afoul of EU with the adoption of an anti immigration initiative in 2014. EU withdrew their full association status and they have now only access to certain parts of the programme; in most cases only as collaborative partners without any direct access to EU funding.

So the Vote Leave campaign claims that the fact that the UK is a science super power means that we don’t need the EU. A shame that nobody has told them that the majority of the money that makes it so arrives directly from the EU they are trying so hard to get rid of.

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Does nature care about Brexit?

A very important question to many; and seeing as we are not likely to get an answer if we ask, we need someone to speak on behalf of nature. However very few in the public debate seems to be doing just that. The few who have tried, have also incurred the wrath of Brexit campaigners. They have been accused of breaking the law and have had formal complaints lodged against them with the charity watchdog. I receive no public funding, so this is my contribution to that debate.

The Habitats Directive
In 1992 EU adopted the Habitats Directive which created the Natura 2000 network of sites designed to protect the most seriously threatened habitats and species across Europe; in other words an ecological network of protected areas, safeguarded against potentially damaging developments. The aim was to promote the maintenance of biodiversity, taking account of economic, social, cultural and regional requirements; and the Natura 2000 network protects over 1000 species and 200 habitat types of European importance.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some of the protected habitat types are river corridors and wetlands like here in  Snowdonia National Park in Wales; an area that hosts several important and rare species such as salmon, trout, lampreys, fresh water pearl mussels, otter and water voles.

The average area protected in all 28 EU countries is just over 18%. The UK is already lagging far behind in designating these areas and currently only has 8.5% of its area protected. On top of this the UK government is a leading voice in a group of member states claiming that the directives are outdated. They are urging an examination of whether regulations on development in these areas should be loosened to promote business interests and farmers. If the UK leaves the EU there is, in other words, nothing to stop them from pursuing this agenda and to repeal or weaken any and all protection of wetlands, bogs, forests, permanent grasslands, marshes and all the other habitat types that are vulnerable to human activity and basically need all the protection they can get.

According to justice secretary Michael Gove, and others in favour of Brexit, the UK will be safer alone outside EU, hm.. Which antelope was it who said? ”I believe that by standing over here all on my own I’ll be safer than together with the other antelopes” Oh yes, now I remember – the antelope that got eaten by the lions, that’s who!!

So in spite of the failings of EU, and they are many for sure, I believe that those of us who care about nature and the environment should vote to stay and work to improve EU from the inside. We should use the considerable influence we have to create progress instead of crossing our arms and stamping our feet like a toddler denied our favourite toy.

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