The referendum on membership of the European Union and the aftermath to it, right up to the vote on the triggering of Article 50 has been a failure of democracy. A failure from both the Leave and Remain camps to truly inform the British public on what the European Union actually does. A wilful skipping of the facts from the Leave campaign is only beaten in democracy failing acts by the Remain campaign who entirely neglected all the EU does for the UK.
The European Union has been a key contributor to the British economy for a long time and invests in many projects up and down the country. However if you ask the average British voter about the EU, the response is likely to be a negative one. YouGov found in January that 33% of Brits believe the EU needs the UK more, that’s compared with 17% who believe the UK needs the EU more. In another poll in February this year 30% of Brits told YouGov they had very unfavourable views of the EU, compared to just 12% with very favourable opinions.
This polling and general negativity is the fault of a long standing vendetta from parts of the British media as well as UK politicians happily taking credit for European projects but blaming Europe for any of their own failings. For far too long politicians have not been honest with voters on what the EU actually does for the UK.
EU Investment in UK
The European Union invested £5.5bn in the UK in 2014. This money went in to agriculture, in to projects in the poorer areas of the UK and in to research, education and innovation. In 2014, £2.6bn was given directly to UK farmers. Also in 2014, £1.3bn was invested in projects helping the poorest areas, the UK government estimates that EU funding has helped set up 24,767 new businesses and created 114,889 jobs for local people.
Source: BBC News
The EU has also helped fund new state of the art facilities for stem cell research at Edinburgh University, it funded researchers at Lincoln and London to look in to blood tests for earlier detection of ovarian and breast cancers. Not to mention charities like Cancer Research UK who have received EU funding in recent years. On top of this a study by Open Europe found that although EU regulations cost around £600m per week to businesses, it also found that quantifiable benefits of these regulations bring in £1.1bn per week, a net £487m benefit to UK businesses, not including access to the single market or benefits to individual citizens.
Where was this information during the referendum or mention of what will happen to this funding in the months following the referendum?
A Misinformed Electorate?
Instead of being told of the real, localised funding which the EU provides we are told that the EU demands we shape our bananas a certain way or that regulations stop certain kettles being used. It is a failing by the media but also politicians who, during the referendum campaign, took to focusing on immigration or grand, sweeping economic predictions.
Even post referendum when mention should be given to the areas that will lose funding, like farming, scientific research or EU funded businesses, the rhetoric has been about the will of the people or continuous immigration scare stories. It is the job of the media and politicians to educate and inform the country but instead it has been a race to the bottom and continues to be while those sectors and people who will take a major financial hit following Brexit are left in the dark.
There has been no mention of the £2.7m EU funding in Gateshead to acquire and refurbish property, support 70 businesses to grow quicker and create 10 new businesses. No mention of £14m invested in Leeds by the EU supporting better, more accurate and quicker future climate projections, potentially helping predict and prevent climate change. Even a project in Greater London, supported with £2m EU money researching cardiac death and regeneration, received almost zero coverage. Look at what other projects in your area have been supported by EU funding here.
What Happens After Brexit?
This funding will disappear from 2019 onwards which will either need to be replaced by funding from the UK government or leave a black hole of jobs, funding, research and development. It was the decision not to publicise these occasionally small but numerous investments from the EU which left the British public believing the EU did nothing to support or help the UK.
Unfortunately it will be that same British public that discovers now non-existent EU money funded a business they or a family member works in, or finds an area falling in to disrepair because the EU helped pay to regenerate it not the UK government. The NHS will find fewer new medicines and treatment methods to use because research in this area within the UK was partially funded by the EU’s Horizon2020 programme, not purely UK money.
UK media and politicians have failed in their duty to inform and educate by not revealing just how much the EU actually invested and helped achieve for this country. The referendum campaign was just the start of a failing of democracy which has continued to this day by focusing so heavily on the will of the people and the unproven threat of immigration rather than the highly localised benefits of EU funding and membership.
When this funding disappears and reality bites for those who voted Brexit, it will not be the EU’s fault any longer, the only ones left to blame will be UK politicians who conveniently forgot what the EU did for us.