More Academic Special Pleading

The relentless barrage of letters from the university community about their grants from the EU continues.

In their letter of 26th May to the Daily Telegraph, the Chairman and President of King’s College London maintain that the UK’s leaving the EU political project would somehow “weaken our research base by undermining relationships with European partners”.  They also complain that EU researchers coming to Britain would be subject to onerous visa requirements.

They should take a look at the European Research Council (ERC) website which welcomes international collaboration and specifically grants support on a competitive basis “to individual researchers of any nationality and age”. The ERC maintains missions and contact points in 29 non-EU countries, including Switzerland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Regarding visas for EU nationals post-Brexit, the writers should be aware of the visa-waiver scheme which covers all EU countries individually as well as the three countries above and the USA. If their researcher visitors wanted to take paid employment, they would need to apply for a work permit, presumably in the “highly skilled” Tier One category, of which there are 20,000 available annually.  So far they have never been fully taken up, barely half in some recent years.

Senior members (536) of Cambridge University wrote on the 31st May saying inter alia that “our future economic growth depends on combining our research resources within a reformed EU”.

Nobody know where the “reformed EU” actually is. It certainly is not to be found in Brussels where the academics sent their grant applications, but seemingly have no idea how the EU works financially.

The EU depends on its Member States for money

One may ask for starters when is the academic community going to learn that the EU does not have any income of its own?

All the EU grants paid to scientists come from an EU budget of around £147 billion paid for by the member states. Britain’s contribution to this figure in 2014 was around £18 billion, mostly paid directly by the Treasury and HMRC.  About £7 billion of this was spent in Britain on farmers, local authorities in disadvantaged areas, and the UK rebate.  The other £11 billion was spent by the EU on its own programmes, of which research is but a small part.

Were Britain to leave the EU, all the £18 billion would stay in Britain, more than enough to pay for double the existing grants to farmers (£3 billion), universities (£700 million), and local authorities (£1.5 billion).

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