Pro-EU academic umbrella organisations like Scientists for EU and Universities for Europe are actively peddling myths and propaganda rather than dealing in ideas, in a heinous betrayal of their supposed professional ethics
The LSE’s BrexitVote blog is carrying a great rebuttal to the endless, whining, selfish demands from Scientists for EU and others that the British people should reject Brexit because leaving the EU might hinder some money from flowing unimpeded into the pockets of various grubby special interests.
Christopher Bickerton and Lee Jones, both university lecturers, write:
When scientists wail that their ‘lab would fall apart’ outside the EU, they reflect the lamentable, Not-In-My-Back-Yard attitude of many academics to the forthcoming referendum. Any critical argument about the EU, and indeed any political argument whatsoever, seems to fall by the wayside, deemed irrelevant by those thinking only of their present research activities. The referendum is not about anyone’s lab; it is about democracy. The consequences of EU membership or exit are so vast and wide-ranging that this is the most significant political decision that will occur in our lifetimes. It is too important to reduce to pounds and pence. We all have our own interests, but sometimes we should aim to look a bit further than that.
If you don’t like the immigration regime as it applies to students and academic staff, then campaign to change it. If you think that UK science is under-funded, making us overly reliant on EU money, then demand that government funds universities properly. If this idea that popular demands should translate into government policy seems unrealistic, it simply signifies how degraded our democracy has become after decades of EU membership.
If you want to stay in the EU, then campaign for it – honestly. Don’t hide behind dodgy statistics and present what is really a cultural and political preference as a matter of economic and scientific necessity.
How refreshing – and how long overdue – it is to see this fightback occurring within academia. Too often, the people in our country who are supposed to be the most adept at thinking, the best equipped to understand abstract concepts and possessed of the best knowledge of history have in practice spurned all of these gifts and sung uncritical hymns of praise to the European Union, and looked at the most fundamental question to face our country in decades as a parsimonious question about how much money will flow into their coffers in the event of a Leave or Remain vote.
The dismal lack of vision or serious thought behind Scientists for EU and Universities for Europe is laid bare in the campaign poster shown at the top of this article, which trumpets the benefits to the British economy of European students studying here. Great. But are they seriously suggesting that these students would no longer come to Britain if we were to leave the political construct of the EU? Would all European students currently here be summarily deported, dragged from their halls of residence in the middle of the night by Home Office SWAT teams? Of course not. But those who claim to speak for scientists and universities are not above falsely implying that European students would automatically disappear from our shores in the event of Brexit.
We can rule out the idea that Universities for Europe are misinformed, and labouring under the misapprehension that something so apocalyptic might really occur – these are supposedly bright people, after all. So that leaves us with the rather distasteful truth – that they are actively lying and seeking to scare and deceive the British people, in order to defend what they see as a lucrative revenue stream of EU funding. In other words, not only have British universities abandoned the pursuit of truth, they are now enthusiastically peddling misinformation and propaganda. I hope they can sleep at night.
Of course, it is not only the academic establishment at fault for slavishly joining in the EU praise chorus – the same can be said of the entire Remain campaign from David Cameron and the government on downward. Neither feel comfortable talking about the big issues of democracy, accountability and national self-determination, which is why they constantly bring the focus back to tedious and unprovable economic arguments about pounds saved or GDP growth at risk.
Neither academia nor government can talk about Britain’s gradual absorption into a European political union in warm and enthusiastic terms, because to do so would be too immediately repellent to voters. And so unable to make the real positive case for the EU and for European federal union, instead we see this endless parade of risibly apocalyptic warnings about Brexit.
Which is a shame, because it would actually be quite nice to know whether our political and intellectual leaders believe that the top-down supra-national government of Europe is a good objective, or whether they are merely going along with it because of perceived short term social and financial advantage.
And if nothing else comes from this abysmally fought EU referendum, it would be nice to know whether our pro-European betters in Westminster and the academy are more stupid or greedy. Right now it seems quite finely balanced.
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