Outcome of the European Union Referendum - Motion to Take Note (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 6th July 2016.

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Photo of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Crossbench 5:45 pm, 6th July 2016

My Lords, it is said that you must know where you come from to know where you are going. Sadly, the campaign’s simplistic and rose-tinted retrospective views and promises of a dream have now resulted in many people feeling that they cannot believe the reality they have woken up to. Shakespeare must be spinning in his grave, 400 years after his death, at the missed opportunity to write several powerful plays about recent events.

I shall focus on the areas that I know a little about—research and health. They must be addressed in planning our exit, and the devil is indeed in the detail. Overall the UK currently contributes around 11% of the European Union research budget and receives around 16% of the allocated funding. Europe’s “co-operation pillar” health theme brought in over €570 million to the UK, representing 17% of the whole EU contribution.

But we must not focus only on money: the EU has shown commitment to the environment, consumer safety, food quality, human rights and social policy. All have powerfully contributed to better health and well-being, and 10% of the UK’s health and social care workforce are European. Many bring unique and essential skills to fill our gaps. Addressing our healthcare staff shortages requires freedom of movement—and these people need to know that they are welcome and that they are wanted, not just that they are tolerated.

Infectious diseases do not respect political barriers, nationality or passports. Our public health threats range from increasing resistance to antibiotics, to potential epidemics and pandemics. Shared learning across borders, as currently organised, allows rapid co-ordinated European responses to health crises, and European-supported public health powers are important to our security. Where will we be in future in relation to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control? The European Medicines Agency, which registers and approves pharmaceutical products for the entire EU, is currently based in London. Will it remain here? Its efficiency and predictability make it the world’s best practice regulator, with leverage through the EU’s position as the largest bloc.

The environment cannot be controlled at state level either. Air and water pollutants, like the climate, are not restrained by political borders. Current environmental legislation is almost entirely an EU competence. It will take time and money to build up institutions and skills to deliver responsibilities as organisations are relocated and have to reframe their working.

The Government of tomorrow, and in coming years, would do well to draw on the expertise in this House for the monumental task ahead in our legislative review. We must all shoulder the burden of that: we are where we are. The Government, whichever Government they are, and however they look and are shaped, must establish the impacts on science, health, education and infrastructure well-being, and decide how best to manage these, and the changes. There is an urgent need to assess and address our decreased influence on European research priorities, and the areas where a lack of regulatory harmonisation is at its most damaging across all domains. Access to European programmes is essential for research and innovation. Future collaboration requires the free exchange of talented individuals and the expertise that they bring to the UK.

Let me turn briefly to Wales and then to examples from my own university. The balance of loss versus any potential gain matters greatly. Overall, Wales receives £600 million support each year from the European Union—£240 million of that in agricultural support. Infrastructure funding for 2014-20 is estimated to be £1.8 billion. Losing this is a major loss, unless it is replaced. With one-third of the EU budget going towards poorer regions, Wales has been a beneficiary. Cardiff University ranked sixth last year in the Research Excellence Framework and, for impact, ranked second in the UK. Like other leading universities it contributes to the prosperity and growth potential of the UK.

I shall give a simple example on the human side. Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging CentreCUBRIC—was built with £4.6 million from the European regional development fund and has another £4 million coming from EU research funds. That equipment and expertise allows it to be a global leader in understanding neurological and psychiatric conditions. A link to that is almost €6 million of grant, which allows the BRAINTRAIN project to deal with addiction and other disorders. Across the UK’s universities there are thousands upon thousands of such examples. Failure to address what the universities are facing will threaten our ability to reach our potential and, I believe, will threaten our very economic viability.

As the First Minister of Wales has said, however we move forward and however we produce things, continued access to the single market is vital for the future prosperity of Wales. We may all be deeply sceptical about polls, but as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Hain, a 6% swing towards remaining in Europe that has happened in Wales since the referendum must sound a warning. Those misled by false promises will feel deeply disillusioned in the future. Those who voted either way will demand a say on the future that we sign up to. The leaders of the devolved nations must be at the very top table, not just consulted through different offices and routes if we are to find out where we are going now. Our legacy, on which we will be judged, will be the country that we leave for future generations.