After we Vote Leave, we could divert a substantial amount of our savings into long-term fundamental science projects
Andre Geim, 2010 Nobel Prize winner for physics: ‘I can offer no nice words for the EU framework programmes which ... can be praised only by Europhobes for discrediting the whole idea of an effectively working Europe’.
David Deutsch, physicist and quantum computation pioneer: ‘[In] 1975 I voted to stay in the EEC. Somehow we didn't. The EU is incompatible with Britain's more advanced political culture. I'm voting Leave… [E]rror correction is the basic issue, and I can't foresee the EU improving much in this respect.’
Technological and economic forces are changing the world. In the next 15 years, over a billion people will join the world economy. New technologies such as the mobile internet, ‘the internet of things’, genetic engineering and robotics are changing the world fast. We need government structures that understand and can adapt fast to these changes.
The EU is the opposite of the institution we need. Brussels has taken wide powers over the policies that govern scientific research and the development of new technology but its bureaucracy is extremely slow to fix problems and adapt to new ideas. Its funding system is broken.
It is extremely bureaucratic and is based on political considerations, not supporting the best science. This means billions are wasted. For example, money is often widely distributed across the EU so that scientists in many countries get money rather than the money going to the best teams. This undermines the best institutions and wastes money.
The EU’s science funding process is not developing the networks between universities, scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs and finance that has been so important in America. There is nothing in the EU that compares to the USA’s Silicon Valley, where leading universities combine with dynamic, entrepreneurial firms to encourage innovation and nurture new technologies. Far from encouraging an entrepreneurial attitude, the EU has instead sought to protect older firms with older products (undermining new technology, such as Dyson's products). As a result of all these problems, most patents that are lodged in the European Patent Office now come from non-EU countries. Europe has fallen behind.
There is no sign that things are going to get better. The President of the European Commission fired his Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) because her advice was politically awkward, a decision that was widely condemned by leading scientists. Professor Nigel Brown, President of the Society for General Microbiology, said: ‘I am appalled at the abolition of the CSA post. Many of the major challenges facing Europe - climate change, food security, healthy ageing, disease control - require scientific input to policy at the very highest level. This is disastrously short-sighted’.
The EU has repeatedly tried to address its failures since the 1990s amid fears that the leadership of new fields, such as the internet and communications, is moving to America which has far more world-leading universities for science research. Its attempts have always failed. This failure is bad for British science, prosperity, and security. It is also bad for democracy - EU officials lack a democratic mandate and are not accountable for their decisions.
If Britain takes back control of the money we send to Brussels and diverts some of it into science, we could make Britain a world leader in crucial fields. We could safeguard British research which is also threatened by Government cuts and Whitehall’s anti-science culture stretching over decades. We could also continue to participate in international scientific collaborations, including the EU’s HORIZON programme, just as other non-EU countries do.
Instead of investing in science, the EU recently raided over €2 billion from the HORIZON science budget to pay for the problems caused by the euro, causing huge problems for researchers across Europe. The UK pays £20 billion to the EU every year - four times the UK’s science and research budget. If we Vote Leave, we will be able to increase funding to science and still save billions.
The EU passed the Clinical Trials Directive, which has been devastating for cancer research. Sir Michael Rawlins described the Directive as a ‘catastrophe’, and a report by the Academy of Medical Sciences stated that it ‘places an unnecessary regulatory burden on clinical trials of both new products and established drugs,’ which was ‘hampering clinical trials and discouraging academic and commercial health research sponsors from conducting their studies in the UK’. According to a 2007 study in the European Journal of Cancer, the Directive ‘resulted in a doubling of the cost of running non-commercial cancer clinical trials in the UK and a delay to the start of trials’. According to the EU itself, since the Clinical Trials Directive was put in place the average delay for launching a clinical trial has increased by 90% to 152 days. The number of staff needed for industry sponsors to handle the clinical trial authorisation process has doubled (107%), and their insurance fees have increased by 800%.
The EU also passed the REACH regulation. This makes it extremely costly for small businesses and entrepreneurs to handle chemicals. The Government has admitted that ‘The cost of registering chemicals under REACH is excessive. SMEs across the EU are hit disproportionately hard. REACH is forcing some smaller businesses to consider manufacturing outside Europe or stop manufacturing altogether.'
The EU limits the use of GM crops in ways that have been strongly condemned by Nobel-winning scientists and which have resulted in companies such as BASF moving operations to America.
These problems will only get worse. The EU’s treaties promote the ‘precautionary principle’ which cautions against innovation - something that scientists have warned is short termist and draws on present fears and prejudices. EU programmes generate huge amounts of red tape for scientists, as the comment above by Nobel Prize winner Andre Geim shows.
Countries do not need to be in the EU to work with EU research centres on scientific research.
The European Commission has revealed that it provides science funding to over 100 countries around the world, from Zimbabwe to to Fiji. The European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, has said that Horizon funding is ‘open to the world’. Likewise, the key European bodies that promote science and research do not require their members to be in the EU - Canada, for example, is an associate member of the European Space Agency.
If we Vote Leave, we will continue to work with European partners - and researchers all over the world - to further scientific research. Given countries like Fiji already participate it is unbelievable to claim that Britain will be excluded. Science is global and Britain needs a funding system and regulatory structure that allows us to be as nimble as possible globally - not stuck with Brussels’ bureaucracy.
One of the most damaging effects of EU membership is its effect on immigration policy. We have effectively open borders to Europe and cannot even control on what terms convicted criminals enter Britain. Simultaneously in order to control the numbers the Government imposes various strict rules on non-EU immigration.
Outside the EU we could have a much more sensible policy in which criminals are banned and we explicitly fast track scientists to come to Britain and work here. This would be great for Britain, Europe, and the wider world.
TThe EU-funded Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE) campaign is trying to scare you by saying that investment will be in danger if we Vote Leave. Britain is a net contributor to the EU – that means that when we Vote Leave we will have more money to invest in fundamental science. The EU has recently raided its own science budget. It cannot be trusted.
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