UK Universities return to Brexit uncertainty

UK Universities return to Brexit uncertainty

With most students returning to or starting university this week, John has been working on two ‘legislative opinions’* in the European Parliament that will, Brexit or no Brexit, affect the future of students in the UK and the universities as institutions. 

The EU is developing its Horizon Europe (Framework 9) programme through which it will make its research investment from 2021 to 2027. The EU’s programmes include institutions from a number of countries outside the EU. John is working hard to make sure that the door is not closed on UK Universities. 

He says, “It is vital that the seventeen universities within the South East, are not restricted in their ability to continue to be world class research centres as well as to attract both EU Students and Staff. The Horizon 2020 (Framework 8) programme has ensured South East England has remained at the forefront of research and innovation. The success of this thriving sector depends on international collaboration. I would prefer the UK didn’t leave at all, but while I will always argue that it is also my job is to help get the best deal possible”.

Britain receives a considerable amount of funding through international research programmes, particularly those originating in the EU. In fact the UK gets out more proportionately than it currently put in. Over the period 2007-2013, Britain was the second largest recipient of research funding through the EU’s Framework Programme 7, receiving €6.9 billion out of a total €55.4 billion. Furthermore, UK higher education institutions received £725 million in research funding from EU government bodies in 2014/15, which accounts for 12 per cent of their total income from research grants.

Since 2014, the South East of England has benefitted from nearly €420 million of research funding to support 709 research projects under Horizon 2020.

John and his colleagues have consistently made the argument that the UK remaining in the programmes and, eventually, the UK Government has agreed, in principle, that it wants to ‘pay and play’. That means the UK will pay MORE than it pays at present to take part in these programmes - but the sad reality is this is the only way to keep our institutions at the forefront - there is no alternative framework available. The upside is that the budget for the programme will grow substantially. Now John is trying to make sure that the EU legislation governing Horizon Europe doesn’t contain traps that seek to limit access or prevent UK universities benefitting from the outcome of their research.   

The second programme on which John is working is Erasmus+ which enables students to study at universities in the rest of the EU.

The UK’s participation in Erasmus+ continues to grow year-on-year, with 15,645 students from UK universities spending a period abroad in 2015–16, up from 14,801 students in 2014–15. 

So far John has been able to get assurances from the UK Univerisities Minister, Sam Gymah MP, that the UK intends to seek participation in Erasmus+ and from the European Commission that the door will remain open to the UK.  

John says “I hope the UK government will join me in helping shape the next phase of Erasmus+ working toward greater flexibility for short-term mobility, and of providing targeted support for disadvantaged students who would like to participate in Erasmus+ in the future. We already know that funding for Erasmus will increase significantly after 2020. It would be a tragedy if UK students were forced to miss out under a ‘no deal’ or hard Brexit.

“More broadly however, the UK government and the EU must ensure future academic and student mobility is not impeded by unnecessary bureaucracy regardless of the immigration status of EU/EEA nationals if and when UK leaves the EU”.

Universities in the South East of England have benefitted hugely from both the Horizon 2020 and Erasmus programmes. Allowing students to be at the forefront of new, exciting research combined will be part of any Brexit deal that swerves the interests of both the UK and the EU. The next six months will be make of break for the university sector - one of Britain’s biggest export earners.


* a ‘legislative opinion’ is a specialist view of a particular committee seeking to amend/influence EU legislation being determined by another committee in the Parliament. 

Posted by John Howarth
Britain STILL neeeds the European Arrest Warrant

Britain STILL neeeds the European Arrest Warrant

Wednesday’s (5/09/2018) emergency statement by Mrs May to the House of Commons highlighted the danger of Russian meddling in British affairs, but crucially, Britain’s reliance on EU policing networks.  

In her statement, the PM stated that two Russian agents from the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate, the GRU, are alleged to have used the Novichok nerve agent on Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and for the botched disposal of the agent found in a public bin, which is connected to the poisoning of Charlie Rowley, and the death of Dawn Sturgess. Altogether the two men, alleged to be working under aliases, are wanted for 4 offences. 

The UK’s only realistic chance of bringing these men to justice is if they were to return to an EU member state. To apprehend these two men, Mrs May confirmed that the UK authorities have obtained an European Arrest Warrant, which will be enacted if they again set foot on EU soil.  

The Russians are not going to extradite Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. Article 61 of Russia’s constitution expressly forbids the extradition of its citizens to foreign countries for trial. Also Russia will not co-operate with a country with which there has been a long history of legal estrangement.  

Since 2003, when the UK refused to action Moscow’s extradition request for Boris Berezovsky on the grounds that he was unlikely to get a fair trial due to his political views, the UK and Russia have refused to co-operate with each other’s requests for extradition. In the Alexander Litvinenko case, instead of extraditing the suspected poisoner of Litvinenko, Andrei Lugovoi, Putin awarded a medal to Lugovoi for “services to the motherland”. 

In the context of these legal and political obstacles, the importance of the European Arrest Warrant cannot be underscored enough. 

The European Arrest Warrant allows for quick extradition of criminals from one EU country to another, through the removal of red tape seen in typical extradition procedures. Sounds a good thing, right? Even arch-Brexiteer David Davis thinks so, stating it is a ‘crucial part of security co-operation’ with the EU. 

But this mechanism only works through the application of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, the concept of EU citizenship, free movement, and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Mrs May’s proposed Brexit, with all the ramifications of the EU Withdrawal Bill, will take the UK out of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. Leaving the EU will also usher the end of the free movement of people, which is needed for the European Arrest Warrant to work. 

The effectiveness of the European Arrest Warrant will be curtailed even during the Brexit transition period. Article 168 of the draft withdrawal agreement states that during the transition period, EU countries may not surrender their national citizens to the UK in accordance with the surrender provisions contained in the European Arrest Warrant.
And with some countries in the EU, like Germany, having similar provisions as Russia in their constitution - specifying that they will not surrender their own citizens to non-EU countries - the UK could encounter some problems. 

Put simply, if we’re out of the EU under the terms currently on offer, people like Petrov and Boshirov will never be brought to trial and could get off scot-free. Offenders in the UK will be able to run to the continent and avoid procescution. A backward step to the Costa-del-Crime.

Is this really what we voted for? 

Posted by John Howarth
No deal Brexit is the worse deal of all – official

No deal Brexit is the worse deal of all – official

For the two years and more the proponents of Brexit have been decrying the factual statements of the consequences of the UK leaving the EU. With the publication of the first tranche of ‘technical papers’ papers setting out the implications of a ‘no deal’ Brexit these cavalier dismissals of the facts and the mistaken promises should be seen for what they are.

Let’s recap on just how wrong they have been:

Doing a deal was going to be easy: said Fox and Davis and Johnson.

Clearly not so, but it has proved all the more difficult because of the civil war within the Conservative Government.

They said if the UK left the EU bureaucracy and red tape could be slashed.

But the technical papers spell out the massive overhead of bureaucracy that a ‘no deal’ would impose on any business involved in import and export with the EU27.

The said that leaving the EU would bring down prices.

But the technical papers make clear that the cost of bureaucracy, tariffs, credit card charges and customs paperwork alone will increase the cost of goods and force businesses to increase prices of products including food.

They said claims that medicines could be in short supply were scaremongering.

Yet the technical papers talk about stockpiling medicines to counter the effects of a ‘no deal’ Brexit because international supply chains are a fact of life in 2018.

They said the NHS would benefit

But the NHS is already being hurt and in the event of no deal, as well as the uncertainty over secure supplies of medicines, faces difficulties with the supply of radiotherapy materials to treat cancers and of highly qualified staff from the EU.

We were again told we were scaremongering when we alerted the public to the danger to food supplies posed by a hard Brexit.

But now the technical papers, the supermarket chains and the farmers have all made it clear that customs delays and the absence of agreement on common regulations are certain to disrupt the supply of foods to the UK and hammer the UK’s agricultural exports too. The next time you hear a Brexiteer dismiss this stuff ask yourself (and them if they allow it) what possible reason would the farmers, the supermarkets and the Port of Dover have to lie about this stuff.

They said they would do their own trade deals.

But is fact nobody is interested in even talking about a trade deal until the UK has agreed its relationship with the EU single market AND if ‘no deal’ exists then the UK’s current trading arrangements with 60 plus countries will no longer be valid.

They said the implications of the border in Ireland could be easily sorted out.

But in reality they haven’t got a clue. The technical papers now suggest that those seeking to do business with the Republic of Ireland should get advice from the Irish Government!

They said ‘they need us more than we need them’.

But both the technical papers and the economic analysis of, well, everybody demonstrates that this is simply not the case and never was. Given the choice of worrying about trade with one country and trade with another 26, not surprisingly, the remaining member states chose the 26. Detailed analysis also demonstrates that only a few EU states are significantly affected by Brexit – our most immediate neighbours: Ireland (hardest hit), The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany (mainly the western regions) and France (mainly the north). In other words gravity still applies to trade.  

They said it would save money.

But the Government has told us they have 7,000 Civil Servants working on Brexit and the money set aside for another 9,000 (in total that’s at least half a billion a year, by our reckoning) AND that’s before the Government subsidises all the things that are currently paid for through the European Union and pays extra to do so in many areas.

They said no deal is better than a bad deal.

But the technical papers show that no deal is the worst deal possible.

So what does all this mean?

It shows that just about everything that has been peddled over the past two years by the Brexiteers has proved to be wrong. It shows that far from being ‘project fear’, the facts show that Britain will suffer badly in the event of a ‘no deal Brexit’. Yet, still, the likes of Mr Rees-Mogg, who seems to think a cut glass accent is a substitute for knowledge, continue to press for an outcome that will patently damage the UK for decades and hit the poorest hardest.

The Brexiteers now talk about the UK’s survival through a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

I’ve no doubt the UK can survive no deal - but we weren’t promised mere survival, we were promised the sunny uplands.

It’s entirely fair and democratic that the public should take a view on this new evidence.


As you can see from the links with this article, the evidence is not exactly hard to find, Sources include the not exatly EU-loving Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Financial Times as well as the BBC, Politico, The Guardian and The Independent as well as others. These sources in turn quote other academic reports and official sites.

Posted by John Howarth
Christine Borgars – Obituary

Christine Borgars – Obituary

There are few people who have better carried the ethos of public service through their lives than the late Christine Borgars who has died today, 12 August, aged 75.

Christine was Councillor for Reading Borough Council’s Park Ward from 1994 to 2006, for the last five years of which we served the ward together. There was no more diligent a local councillor than Christine. During my time as Lead Councillor for Transport, Christine Chaired the Traffic Management Committee and proved both entirely reliable and totally loyal. Christine cared deeply about good local government and doing the job properly.

Christine made a contribution to Reading, but what said more about her was her voluntary work after she stood down from the Council. Week in, week out Christine gave her time to the community and for charitable causes. She was still doing so when she was very ill indeed. This included, in particular, work with young people at Reading’s Pakistan Community Centre, where she ran computer classes week in, week out, assisted as Secretary of the organisation and provided invaluable advice. Invaluable because Christine would tell people what they needed to hear, not necessarily what they wanted to hear - that’s what a good friend does.

But first and foremost, Christine Borgars was an essential part of Reading Labour’s political and electoral organisation for nearly a quarter of a century. Always in the background, Christine made a great contribution to the election of three Labour MPs and to the unmatched electoral success Labour enjoyed locally. She processed and organised the data that helped Labour get its message to the voters and made a significant contribution to Labour’s use of technology well beyond Reading - one of the unsung heroes on which public life depends.

Christine made her career and much of her political and community contribution from technology. She was a ‘computer nerd’ long before it was fashionable. Christine was a trade unionist and a socialist who did more than talk the talk - she lived the life - putting the welfare of others before her own. She was selfless, tireless, loyal to a fault, harmlessly eccentric and didn’t seem to need sleep. Reading Labour came to love her dearly. She has left us far too soon. She will be much missed. 

R.I.P. Christine.

Posted by John Howarth
My Local Brexit – Cllr Lisa Mitchell

My Local Brexit – Cllr Lisa Mitchell

John says: “This summer I’m featuring a series of guest blogs from Labour councillors around the region who have been kind enough to write short pieces on how they see Brexit affecting the area they represent.”

In May Lisa Mitchell gained Portswood Ward in Southampton Test for Labour, she is pictured above, second to the right of John, during the campaign.

Lisa writes:

I am very lucky to represent a diverse and vibrant ward in Southampton where a lot of my residents are going to be affected by Brexit. Many of them either work or study at Southampton University which is a big employer both in Portswood and the city in general. 

Leaving the EU is going to have a huge impact on research funding which will no doubt affect jobs. Student numbers from the EU could also fall as there are no guarantees that fee structures for these students will stay the same as they are now.  

For those of my constituents who come from EU countries they are now living with increasing uncertainty about their rights to live and work in a post Brexit U.K. 

My ward also has a great high street full of pubs, restaurants, cafes and small independent shops such as the October Books which is a Portswood institution. I worry that Portswood High Street may not fare very well if prices start to rise and people’s wages are squeezed in the event of a hard Brexit." 

Cllr Lisa Mitchell
Portswood Ward, Southampton City Council

Posted by John Howarth
My Local Brexit – Cllr Mike Rowley

My Local Brexit – Cllr Mike Rowley

John says: “This summer I’m featuring a series of guest blogs from Labour councillors around the region who have been kind enough to write short pieces on how they see Brexit affecting the area they represent.”

Mike Rowley (pictured above – third from the right – green t-shirt – at the launch of Labour’s local manifesto) is Labour’s Portfolio Holder for Housing on Oxford City Council has been an enthusiastic campaigner for Labour candidates around the Thames Valley. He represents Sandhills and North-East Headington

Mike writes:

Brexit is a particular concern for Oxford as our City has one of the largest European communities in Britain (more than one in eight of our citizens).  EU nationals work in our car industry, our innovative high-tech sector, our Universities, and above all our NHS hospitals which are centres of excellence for the whole South of England.

Across Britain, one in nine NHS employees is an EU national; in Oxford that figure is two out of nine.  Our NHS hospitals, already struggling to attract vital staff because of the high cost of living here, face potential disaster if those workers are not allowed to stay one and all.

As a Council, the biggest impact so far – and one that will only increase given the uncertainty of the Government’s chaotic negotiations – is a chronic shortage of trained construction workers.  This is a national problem which has hit Oxford particulrly badly.  The Government’s much-vaunted house-building plans simply cannot be achieved in time for the people who desperatel;y need affordable homes without EU nationals.

In the longer term, we need a rational and balanced policy to ensure that Britain trains enough skilled workers to meet its needs – with a living wage for young workers, proper bursaries for student nurses, affordable housing for everyone including people who move for work, and many other measures joined into a well-thought-out plan for the future of our society and economy.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen nothing from this Government that would lead me to believe they’re capable of anything like that.  Instead, they present themselves more and more as a collection of brainless egos swirling down a hole of their own making, when any other Government would be going all-out to get us the best deal for our future relationship with the EU.

Councillor Mike Rowley
Barton, Sandhills and North-East Headington – Oxford City Council

Posted by John Howarth
My Local Brexit – Cllr Lee Cowen

My Local Brexit – Cllr Lee Cowen

John says: “This summer I’m featuring a series of guest blogs from Labour councillors around the region who have been kind enough to write short pieces on how they see Brexit affecting the area they represent.”

Lee Cowen won Mash Barn Ward in Adur District for Labour in a by-election last October and successfully defended the seat in May (Lee is pictured above campaigning with John in April) . Adur includes Shoreham, Southwick and Lancing on the Sussex coast west of Brighton and Hove. Lee works in the computer/online games industry. The creative industries have been a great manufacturing success for the UK in highly competitive digital markets. 

Lee writes:

Valued at a record £5.11bn after 12.4% growth in 2017, the UK games and interactive entertainment market is the fifth largest in the world, with of 32.4m Britons enjoying games, played on mobiles, online, consoles and PCs. Supported by Government policies, UK games publishers and developers like Creative Assembly are responsible for £2bn of exports annually.

Brexit will present a challenge to the growth of the UK economy, including the games and interactive entertainment industry.

With the industry being a highly global (and mobile) market, maintaining access to a diverse pool of specialised talent will be crucial to sustaining the UK’s high performance. Companies rely on non-UK EU nationals to fill key creative and technical posts. 

According to Creative Assembly: 

“As a global and diverse industry, games businesses and developers need a range of nationalities and viewpoints to encourage innovation and create products that are globally marketable and world-class. 

“Since the referendum, we have received a number of communications from EEA nationals who have changed their minds about working in the UK due to concerns about long term job security. Also, many of our EU staff have expressed concern for their job security and future careers. We want to be able to provide jobs to employees that deliver a good quality of life, a foundation to build a family and allow them to make meaningful cultural and creative contributions through their work, no matter their country of origin. 

“The talent that this has attracted has given us 34 different nationalities and 19% of our workforce is made up of EEA nationals who are in specialized skill areas such as Engine Optimization, Artificial Intelligence Programming and Design, Graphics Programming, Technical Art, Game Monetization and Live Operation to name but a few.”

Cllr Lee Cowen
Adur District Council

Posted by John Howarth
My Local Brexit – Cllr Peter Lamb

My Local Brexit – Cllr Peter Lamb

John says: “This summer I’m featuring a series of guest blogs from Labour councillors around the region who have been kind enough to write short pieces on how they see Brexit affecting the area they represent.”

Peter Lamb (above) is the Leader of Crawley Borough Council, having successfully defended Labour’s slim majority on the Council in May. Peter has been selected as Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Crawley at the next General Election.

Peter writes:

Last Summer, the Centre for Cities released a report analysing trade flow and trade barriers data to determine the impact of Brexit on cities, declaring that Crawley will be the 'city' least affected by Brexit. Why then, as leader of the local council, does Brexit fill me with dread? One word: Gatwick.

Gatwick Airport is the single biggest source of employment between London and Brighton, and it's hosted within Crawley's boundaries. Not only do aviation-related industries make up a large part of our economy, but the presence of a leading airport is a major attraction for the many international businesses which have located themselves here. If Brexit negatively impacts aviation, the economic consequences for Crawley will be huge, and unfortunately that's one of many areas for which the report's methodology fails to account.

So, what's the problem? Well, to fly planes outside our national airspace we need agreements with other countries, not only the desired destination but every country along the flight path. Currently the UK is part of the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA) and we fly to other destinations through deals negotiated by the EU. It's possible to be part of the ECAA and not the EU, but you have to commit to various things including freedom of movement, which really isn't an option under current political circumstances. Alternatively, the UK could negotiate its own deals with each of the countries we currently fly to and through. Yet, that's a huge number of countries, much of the experience of negotiating multilateral agreements at the Foreign Office has atrophied over our years of EU membership and aviation would have to compete for what experience there is with every other area of policy for attention.

For two years since the Referendum I have been asking what the Government's strategy is to enable us to keep flying post-Brexit and for two years there has been silence. Exit Day is only 9 months away, every day which passes the likelihood of grounded aeroplanes keeps getting bigger.

Cllr Peter Lamb
Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Posted by John Howarth
Safer Tourism – by the pool this summer

Safer Tourism – by the pool this summer

Many of us, myself included, are off on our holidays over the next few weeks*. My kids are grown up now but many of you will be going off with your children in tow. Before you go it’s worth checking out the Safer Tourism Foundation’s website. 

The Safer Tourism Foundation was established in 2016 by Sharon Wood, the mother of two children who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 2006. They are dedicated to preventing accidents, injury and illnesses for Brits travelling abroad. 

This year’s campaign is focusing on unnecessary deaths and accidents in holiday swimming pools. There are 25 drownings in holiday pools each year, and there are also an additional 500 serious pool related incidents annually. 

To help to prevent accidents around the pool from happening, the Safer Tourism Foundation are encouraging us to RELAX. This acrostic is asking parents to first Recce the pool environment to identify any safety features. You must then keep your Eyes on your kids, to make sure they are safe. Then you must make sure you are with someone who knows Livesaving techniques, just in case of any incidences. If children need Armbands, they must be wearing them. Finally, the Safer Tourism Foundation are asking parents to eXplain to children how to use the pool properly.  

The STF teamed up with the Telegraph to make an animated video to illustrate the dangers of swimming pools. Watch it here. 

More broadly, the Safer Tourism Foundation also aims to reduce the general health and safety risks affecting people travelling abroad. 

They have tips for safe travel on all types of holidays, from adventure holidays, to city breaks, to even stag and hen parties.  They also have tips based on what type of traveller you are, including if you are travelling with children, or if you are travelling with a disability, health issue or mental health condition. 

Check them out here.

Stay safe, remember your suncream, and have a great time.

* The European Parliament has a four week summer recess and we have a short recess of about ten days at Christmas. Some of those times I am working in the region. MPs at Westminster have longer recesses though much of that time they work in the constituency. Not complaining at all - just explaining how it works. 

Posted by John Howarth
My Local Brexit – Cllr Laura Price

My Local Brexit – Cllr Laura Price

John says: “This summer I’m featuring a series of guest blogs from Labour councillors around the region who have been kind enough to write short pieces on how they see Brexit affecting the area they represent.”

Laura Price  is an Oxfordshire County Councillor for Whitney South and Central Division. Labour has had some notable successes in David Cameron’s former seat in recent years. Laura is pictured above (holding the right of the banner) at the recent reception committee for the scary orange white supremacist creature at Blenheim Palace.

Laura writes:

On Monday morning Witney and West Oxfordshire woke to the news that MP Robert Courts had resigned from his role at the Foreign Office in order to back Boris and his vision for a hard Brexit.

Any political enjoyment of the chaos within the Conservative Party was fleeting when balanced against my deep concern at our representative in Parliament ignoring the fact that his constituency voted by a clear margin to Remain. Perceived future career prospects have clearly trumped a responsibility to protect residents from the damage that a Boris Brexit would bring. 

A network of rural villages and market towns, West Oxfordshire residents work in and rely on a diverse range of industries, from F1 to publishing, with most of the major players having the current benefits of EU membership woven into their success. We're also lucky to have a rich history of skilled engineering, with employers such as Siemens Magnet Technology providing hundreds of jobs locally, as part of a production pathway for MRI scanners which flows across European countries. 

For me however, one of the most significant threats is our ability to sustain the public sector. As an area of high employment, with an ageing population, recruitment is cited as being as big a challenge as funding in enabling our hospitals and care providers to meet ever increasing demand. Uncertainty over our relationship isn't only leading EU nurses, doctors and care workers to re-think their future here, but it is also jeopardising the ability of the NHS and the County Council to deliver a workable forward plan. 

Politicians like Courts might be comfortable with pretending that the response to the referendum result is as simple as repeating "the will of the people", but for our communities it will be the detail that matters - although today it sadly feels like the interests of his constituents couldn't be further from his mind.

Cllr Laura Price
Witney South and Central - Oxfordshire County Council

Posted by John Howarth