Why Europe matters

Cärlchen Jupp takes exception to the characterisation of the European Elections as ‘not relevant enough for Cam’.

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As exams loom and Cambridge buckles down, there is, needless to say, a reduction in news spurting out of Cambridge.

That’s not to say there’s none – as we’ve seen in the last week – but perhaps those of us not slaving away over our books have had more time to focus on things further afield. But I was somewhat bemused when I was told that the European elections were not relevant to Cambridge – because by Christ they are. As is the EU, and everything it entails – and it’s time for us to get off our overused arses (now there’s an image) and start to think about it.

Because come 2017, there may be no more Britain in the EU. And whilst it helps morons like Janice Atkinson (here showing just how intellectually mature UKIP are) and the Cleggsta (boo, hiss, tuition fees standard leftist drivel) to get some cheap headlines, if we leave the EU there will definitely be consequences. It’s not a zero-sum game, and at Cambridge it will affect us very directly, if it happens. I would put a significant amount of cash on the Vice-Chancellor et al coming out in favour of staying in – and perhaps they would be right to do so.

Who is this woman? Britain's most senior EU diplomat. Not that anyone knows or cares

Who is this woman? Britain’s most senior EU diplomat. Not that anyone knows or cares

But before we deal with that, let’s just remember for a moment that, despite being students, we are also voters – and hence potential employees and, to an extent, world citizens. Our image in Europe (and more widely) matters right now – and will matter very directly to us when we apply for jobs abroad or try to collaborate in future ventures, academic or commercial. How we are seen in Europe really does matter, and what’s just happened with the European-wide elections needs to be talked about, and talked about loudly.

Despite UKIP’s vote share going down in local elections (not that the ‘neutral’ BBC has commented on that, nor on Labour’s essential drubbing in these elections), it is ever-so-trendy to think of them as a bunch of evil, far-right extremists. That’s not to mention the fact that the radical-leftoid-fascio-socialist BNP gained a ludicrous share of the vote. But, just for a second, let’s consider what the rest of Europe has sent to the EU Parliament before we judge ourselves too harshly.

Because they’ve really outdone themselves. A devastatingly attractive acquaintance of mine currently on his year abroad really brought it home to me. Because it’s in places like France where governments are really up the shit that real idiots are getting into power – like the National Front, with their gas-chamber ‘small detail’ comments and their delightful promotion of Ebola infection to wipe out immigrants. Add to that your motley crew of racists, homophobes, Islamophobes, anti-Semites and all out crackerjacks, and it’s not a hugely promising parliament. But then nor is the fact that the ‘no change required’ brigade seems to have won across Europe, which puts our relationship with the EU at serious jeopardy.

It is terribly à la mode to go on and on about returning power to the UK, and in a sense it’s a sensible argument. There are some fucking annoying things that the EU does, not least their endless and entirely impractical legislation. One of my undergraduate supervisors (when he remembered that I wasn’t called Paul or Ian) was forced, much against his will, to start using the early power-saving lightbulbs. His room was like Bin Laden’s cave (he also seemed to keep his wife in a cupboard, which was confusing). The EU doesn’t help itself.

The Strasbourg parliament - definitely NOT a waste of money...

The Strasbourg parliament – definitely NOT a waste of money…

But there are very real, practical things that our representation in Brussels (and Strasbourg for about five minutes a month) do, and, eventually, being in or out of the EU will affect us on a day-to-day basis. The university sector gains enormously from the common market and its associated investment. Without it, funding for arts and sciences would drop and many scholarships would no longer exist. Travel and collaboration with Europe on academic projects (think Erasmus and the thousands of current collaborations in science) would suffer. We would be on a limb – and even our other big collaborator, the US, wants us to stay in. That’s not to say that leaving the EU or failing to engage (like Farage et al) will mean a total end to all of this – but it will change things, and we need to be honest about that.

Add to that the problem of immigration (bound to be massive at the next election). At the moment, getting highly skilled EU migrants to work at Cambridge is easy. Of course, the system isn’t perfect, and you don’t have to look far in the university to see the problems that have come from clampdowns on non-EU immigration. Add to that the concerns around unskilled migration, the effects of which have been hugely over-played by UKIP, and the situation becomes very messy. But it’s not something that has to remain as shit as it is, and places which benefit from the EU need to start lobbying to sort out the rot.

Wanting to sort the EU out doesn’t make you a racist, and wanting to stay in doesn’t make you an idiot. But we need to start taking these things seriously, because very soon things could become very different, and we can’t claim not to have seen it coming.