EU ben­e­fi­cia­ries speak out in UK ahead of elec­tion

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY EDOUARD GUIHAIRE

Stu­dents at Falmouth Uni­ver­sity have a lot rid­ing on May’s na­tional elec­tion, which if won by the Con­ser­va­tive Party will trig­ger a ref­er­en­dum on the United King­dom’s membership of the Euro­pean Union and threaten their fund­ing.

The uni­ver­sity’s gi­ant bay win­dows open out on to the idyl­lic rolling val­leys of Corn­wall, south­west Eng­land, but in­side its modernist build­ings, the uni­ver­sity is a hub of high-tech ac­tiv­ity.

In the video games depart­ment, a stu­dent hones the set­tings on a pair of vir­tual re­al­ity gog­gles in front of a ta­ble crammed with ca­bles and joy­sticks. On the shelves, piles of pro­gram­ming man­u­als lie next to mod­els from the game As­sas­sin’s Creed.

“The EU has been in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to Falmouth Uni­ver­sity,” pro­fes­sor Anne Carlisle, vice-chan- cel­lor of the in­sti­tu­tion, told AFP, jok­ing that they hoped to cre­ate a “Fal­mouth­for­nia” tech-zone mod­eled on Sil­i­con Val­ley.

“Over a 14-year pe­riod, over 100 mil­lion pounds (US$146 mil­lion) has been in­vested into Corn­wall higher ed­u­ca­tion to im­prove in­fra­struc­ture.”

“The idea that might not ex­ist in the fu­ture through some kind of closing of bor­ders is ab­so­lutely hor­ri­fy­ing,” she added.

Con­ser­va­tives Vow Vote by 2017

Falmouth’s po­si­tion is not unique and the Times re­cently pub­lished an open let­ter from some of the coun­try’s lead­ing aca­demics warn­ing against the risk of “Brexit” (“Bri­tish Exit”).

They noted that “the UK benefits di­rectly from 1.2 bil­lion pounds an­nu­ally in Euro­pean re­search fund­ing and is the largest ben­e­fi­ciary of EU re­search funds to uni­ver­si­ties.”

But Bri­tain has never com­pletely fallen for Brussels’ charms, and euroskep­tics point to Lon­don’s bill for EU membership, which has risen from 1.9 bil­lion eu­ros in 2009 to 8.6 bil­lion eu­ros in 2013, tak­ing into ac­count what the coun­try re­ceives in sub­si­dies.

“How­ever, the net bal­ance does not ac­cu­rately re­flect the many benefits of EU membership,” ar­gues the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion in an of­fi­cial doc­u­ment.

“Many of them, such as peace, po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity, se­cu­rity and free­dom to live, work, study and travel any­where in the Union can­not be mea­sured,” it added.

Con­ser­va­tive Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron sup­ports EU membership but has promised an in-out ref­er­en­dum as he at­tempts to counter the rise of the UK In­de­pen­dence Party (UKIP), the anti-EU and anti-mass immi- gra­tion party that won the 2014 Euro­pean elec­tions.

If re-elected for a sec­ond term, Cameron has promised to “ne­go­ti­ate a bet­ter deal” for the UK, a mem­ber state since 1973.

Hav­ing se­cured changes, the Bri­tish public would then be asked “do you want to stay in Europe on this re­form ba­sis or leave?” in a ref­er­en­dum to be held by 2017.

Labour Rules out Ref­er­en­dum

“Leav­ing will save the tax­payer bil­lions of pounds,” said Robert Oulds, direc­tor of the right-wing Bruges Group think-tank.

“But the big­gest prize ... is the restora­tion of self-gov­ern­ment and hav­ing de­ci­sions made by peo­ple that we can elect and dis­miss,” he added.

Ed Miliband, leader of the op­po­si­tion Labour Party, has ruled out a ref­er­en­dum if he wins on May 7, say­ing Bri­tain’s fu­ture “lies in­side and not out­side the Euro­pean Union.”

“We won’t condemn this coun­try to years of un­cer­tainty, years of in­se­cu­rity, by threat­en­ing our Euro­pean fu­ture,” he added.

Mean­while, in Falmouth, stu­dent Thomas Brown is busy in­cor­po­rat­ing an­i­ma­tions into 3D pro­gram­ming soft­ware, cre­at­ing re­al­is­tic com­bat scenes that will even­tu­ally ap­pear in an orig­i­nal video game.

De­spite his uni­ver­sity’s stance, the 21-year-old be­lieves Bri­tain should be asked the ques­tion.

“We joined the EU many years ago, I think it’s fair enough to ask the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion whether it’s work­ing.”

But a look around his gleam­ing workspace re­veals which way he would vote.

“Ob­vi­ously I work here, all this is funded by EU money,” he ex­plained. “It’s a good thing to stay in the EU.”

AFP

Post­grad­u­ate stu­dents on the Alacrity Falmouth course Sam Pike, 21, left, and Jake Teale, 23, right, demon­strate the op­ti­cal mo­tion cap­ture sys­tem used in the devel­op­ment of dig­i­tal games at Falmouth Uni­ver­sity, Eng­land on March 11. The course, which is funded by the Euro­pean Re­gional Devel­op­ment Fund, aims to cre­ate the next gen­er­a­tion of dig­i­tal games com­pa­nies from teams of star­tups formed on the course, con­sist­ing of pro­gram­mers, game de­sign­ers, en­gi­neers, an­i­ma­tors and artists.

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