Beware of Etonians Bearing Pasties

This week we have witnessed the worst kind of political theatre with the arrival of the Boris Battle Bus in Cornwall. Boris wasted no time in adopting the symbols of the holidaymaker: the pasty and the ice cream. Only the knotted handkerchief and rolled up trousers were absent. This is not patriotism, it is patronising; using the people of Cornwall as a backdrop for political opportunism. As has been pointed out, Boris was able to brandish his Cornish Cornish pasty because the EU offers this product protected status. Given the fact most Brexiteers favour a market free-for-all, we could end up with fake pasties from the US filled with hormone fed beef, or from Asia with horsemeat.

But tourists to Cornwall and the many businesses serving them have benefited from EU regulations. In the 1970s we used to pump our untreated sewage straight into the sea. EU regulations – in particular the Bathing Water Directive – have forced the UK to clean up its act. Now over 95% of our beaches have sea water that is clean enough to swim in [1]. It will escape few that coastal and marine litter is also a huge environmental problem. Here again EU regulations are helping. Campaign group Surfers against Sewage say the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive is currently the strongest and potentially the most effective legal tool to help reduce levels of marine litter.
Before Boris stepped off the bus or uttered a word, his grand Brexit deception had already begun. Daubed across his shiny red vehicle is the slogan: We send £350 million a week to the EU, lets fund our NHS instead. This is deceptive in two senses. Firstly, the actual net figure, when the rebate the EU sends to UK is taken into account, is around £120 million a week [2]. This works out at roughly £236 per household per year, or £4.50 a week. When you consider that most of this rebate is spent on farming and regional aid – helping regions like Cornwall in particular – what we pay the EU actually looks like money well spent. Cornwall is also scheduled to receive over half a billion pounds from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF) between 2014 and 2020. These funds aim to reduce regional disparities in income, wealth and increase economic opportunities.

As to claims about funding the NHS instead of sending money to the EU, Arron Banks, Leave campaigner, has stated publically that he wants to privatise the NHS. I would also urge people to listen to the views of junior doctors, nurses and others working in the NHS about the Tories commitment to the NHS rather than to Boris.

Meanwhile Boris’ government is destroying Cornwall’s economic opportunities through its attacks on renewables. A report I commissioned last year concluded that through a combination of wind, solar, wave and geothermal energy, Cornwall has the potential to generate 161% of its energy needs [3]. The region has the greatest potential for renewables energy of any region in the UK and could become a powerhouse for the South West. All that holds us back is a lack of political will and a pro nuclear and pro fossil fuels ideological obsession. This is having a hugely damaging effect on investment in the clean green industries which we need for a sustainable future.

I hope the good people of Cornwall will realise they have been thoroughly exploited by Boris’ whirlwind visit. Ultimately, the Boris Battle Bus has only one destination in mind. Boris is hoping to use Brexit as a route to becoming the next Prime Minister. Don’t be fooled. Don’t be used as a backdrop for somebody else’s electioneering. On 23rd June, make the choice that works best for Cornwall.

[1] https://www.foe.co.uk/blog/what-has-eu-done-uk-beaches
[2] http://infacts.org/uk-doesnt-send-eu-350m-a-week-or-55m-a-day/
[3] http://mollymep.org.uk/publications/reports/

Student Exchange Programme at Risk

Across Europe young people are campaigning to draw attention to the benefits they have received from the Erasmus+ programme. Like many of the twinning and exchange activities that have helped to cement peace in Europe, as well as providing life-changing experiences for young people, Erasmus+ is under threat is the UK votes to leave the EU on 23rd June.

According to the campaign group Students for Europe, ‘ choosing to leave the EU at the June 23 referendum would threaten the academic futures and employment opportunities of an entire generation of students’.  To defend these advantages that the EU brings students will be demonstrating across the country.

Charlotte Martin speaks on behalf of Students for Europe and said:

“Coming from a predominantly working-class background, the Erasmus+ programme offered me an opportunity I would never have thought possible. As a British student I started learning a new language, and saw the wealth of job opportunities there are in Europe.

Leaving the EU risks the fantastic freedom of movement – to study, work and travel – that myself and others have today. In Nottingham we’ll be talking to students about why it’s so important to register to vote for the EU referendum.”

The Erasmus+ programme allows more than 10,000 British students to study abroad every year and since it was started more than 200,000 British students have been able to spend time at another European University, learning about other cultures and expanding their horizons. This programme is not just about travel and adventure but is vital in building the relationships that underpin peace in our continent.

Research for Universities UK indicates that the programme also brings economic benefits to individual students. Those who have completed an Erasmus placement have been shown to be 50% less likely to experience long-term unemployment.

EU Funded Projects in the South West

Earlier this week, we looked at EU funding to the most deprived areas of the South West. What about EU funding and the other end of the spectrum?

Horizon 2020 is the EU Research and Innovation programme for 2014 – 2020 following on from the FP7 programme. In the South West, Bristol and Swindon are amongst the largest UK recipients of Horizon 2020 research grants currently allocated, both at around €60 million so far for this period.

During the FP7 period (2007-2013) Bristol University received a whopping €142,263,470 in research funding, making it the 8th highest recipient of EU research funding in the UK higher education sector! Across the West Country, a total of 1,155 proposals were retained for funding (25.4% of total applicants from the region) involving 1,310 successful applicants and requesting €393,95m of EC financial contribution. This made the South West the 7th most successful individual region of all those in the EU 28 member states for research grant applications. The region received just under €600 million during the FP7 period, with a further €44 million to SMEs during that time too!

RNLI

There are great examples of  EU-funded projects right across our region. For example a North Dorset based company was awarded funds under the LIFE programme to develop an environment-friendly repair system for leaking sewage and rainwater/surface drainage pipes, while Dorset County Council received funding for a collaborative project focused on coastal zone management and the development of a strategy for an open coast. Poole-based charity the RNLI received funding to develop a system for decommissioning lifeboats and reducing carbon footprint of the organisation.

In Devon, there have been a whole series of funded projects. For example, Exeter City Council received a grant to undertake a housing refurbishment for a number of hard-to-treat, unoccupied properties in poor structural condition. The funding improved the energy efficiency, reducing the predicted annual energy costs by over £500 and saving over 3 tons of CO2/year per property.

Another great EU-funded project is based on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus near Falmouth. The Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) is a £30 million interdisciplinary centre leading cutting-edge research into solutions to problems of environmental change.

And in Bristol, the National Composite Centre (NCC), based at Bristol and Bath Science Park, was developed with ERDF funding of £9 million to put the UK at the forefront of composites technology. The NCC is a purpose-built research and development facility which brings together dynamic companies and academics to develop technologies supporting the design and rapid manufacture of composite products. Advanced composites are lightweight, high-performance materials which are transforming the design and manufacture of products – from those used in the aerospace and automotive industries, to marine and renewable technologies. By reducing the weight of products, there can be significant reductions in carbon emissions and manufacturing costs, offering huge commercial opportunities and technological advantages.Not only is this ERDF investment expected to generate over 150 additional jobs, but the South West is now seen as a leader in this field, and the NCC is being expanded to attract ideas and research that will result in new products, businesses and jobs.

EU Funds

Here in the South West we are so often leading the way towards a more sustainable future, despite the challenges, and we must continue to make best use of the opportunity that EU Funding Programmes represent to our region.

In the European Parliament, the Greens/European Free Alliance MEPs group have produced this helpful guide to accessing EU funding opportunities, which we would encourage businesses and other organisations across the South West to read and share. With the current government hell bent on cutting spending, there’s no guarantee these streams will be replaced in the event we leave the EU or what their priorities might be.

You can find a comprehensive breakdown of EU funds to the South West on our Resources page.

South West Leads the Way Thanks to EU Funding

Last week, we went to see EU funds in action through a visit The Genesis Centre at Somerset College for a tour of their facility.

For anyone who is not familiar with the centre, Genesis is a £2.5m sustainable construction resource and learning centre for the South West; an idea which originally grew out of a student project. The centre demonstrates that traditional construction methods can work hand in hand with recycled materials and innovative technologies to create contemporary buildings that are more energy and water-efficient, create less waste, and

Genesis

perform to a high standard for the comfort of building users.

The centre houses a range of renewable energy systems which are used for demonstrations and training purposes, ensuring students and construction industry professionals receive hands on experience of working with low carbon technologies.

The centre was funded by the South West Regional Development Agency and the Learning & Skills Council, with funds from the European Regional Development Fund, and is one of many examples of forward-thinking projects that have benefitted from EU funding across the South West.

The South West has in fact been a major beneficiary of EU Funding, with Cornwall most notably receiving significant sums of money from various EU programmes.

Cornwall has received over €450 million in Regional Development funds along with nearly €140 million from the Social Fund. In cash terms, EU membership is worth over half a billion euros in funding to the most deprived county in our region.

For example, just over £7.5 million of ERDF has supported two key projects – the Pendennis Building & Redevelopment of the Yacht Basin. The extensive redevelopment of the Pendennis Building has seen the previous shore-side facility almost completely rebuilt, replaced by larger modernised construction halls, workshops and office space.

Pendennis has become one of Cornwall’s most important employers, thanks to EU Funding they significantly improved the facilities and 315 existing jobs have been safeguarded, with 60 permanent skilled jobs created to date in the Falmouth Docks area. This work builds on the historic maritime tradition of the town and has helped to deliver the Port of Falmouth masterplan.

Genesis 2
The European Social Fund (ESF) Raising Aspirations project (RAP) also helps low-skilled people and particularly women, develop their careers through learning and training. Plymouth University runs the project with partners, including Cornwall College. For example, at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust, 22 lower-paid employees successfully completed a higher education module through Cornwall College.

It is fair to say that many of our partners in the EU are more sympathetic to the needs of rural areas than our government is, hence these supportive funding schemes. It is highly unlikely that such funding would continue if decisions were made at Westminster, leaving communities in the West Country vulnerable.