The EU delivers vital investment in Kent
- Kent has led the way in seeking out EU funding opportunities, with Labour councillors often being at the forefront. Even with EU funds being spread more thinly after enlargement, Kent has benefitted substantially from EU funding over the years. This has come from very small projects, like the host of rural projects funded by the ‘West Kent Leader’ programme, to massive investments, like £75 million into new buildings at the University of Kent.
- Kent has a unique benefit compared to other regions with its excellent ‘Kent and Medway NHS Trust’s Health and Europe Centre’ enabling it to mount projects on issues as diverse as HIV diagnosis to dementia to assistive technologies for disabled people.
- According to the latest available figures, the University of Kent received £2,081,000 in grants from the EU in 2013/14, and its students received £634,759 of Erasmus Travel Grants.
For 40 years, EU funded projects have brought new jobs and investment here in the South East. Although the South East is, overall, a prosperous part of the UK, it continues to receive investment from the EU. From research grants for students to helping businesses to reduce their carbon footprint, the EU’s investment in the South East makes a big contribution to our growing economy.
Invests in our universities
The South East has a reputation for educational excellence, with 19 universities including Oxford University - the oldest in the English speaking world. These universities gain a huge amount from the EU with £100 million a year in EU funding going to South East universities between 2013 and 2014. Researchers and scientists from across the South East have often only been able to produce their ground-breaking work because of European Research Council grants. World leading projects such as the Joint European Torus based in Culham in Oxfordshire – the only place in the world to have ever achieved nuclear fusion – have been made possible thanks to European funding.
Almost 2,000 students studying at universities in the South East take part in Erasmus exchange schemes, meaning more young people than ever from the UK are reaping the benefits of studying in another European country. And the Erasmus scheme helps British students too, who can travel abroad to gain skills to help them with their future careers without having to break the bank, since a special Erasmus grant helps to cover the extra costs of living abroad for students. Students who have spent a year abroad on Erasmus programmes have an unemployment rate 23% lower than other students too – showing the economy can benefit as well as individual students. Erasmus builds links between universities all over Europe – and these links can also develop into academic and business opportunities.
Invests in Small Businesses
The EU has invested £4.7 billion in England, supporting small and medium enterprises (SMEs). It’s expected that 65,000 SMEs will have received support because of this investment by 2023. That includes 20,000 enterprises being expected to be able to actively innovate and create new products or processes as a direct result of this investment. £2.6 billion of this funding will come from the European Regional Development Fund, which focuses investment on research, support for SMEs and developing a low carbon economy.
The European Investment Bank
The European Investment Bank (EIB), lends money to projects that support the EU’s objectives and helps finance schemes across the South East and the rest of the UK. In 2014, the EIB invested £5 billion in the UK’s economy - that’s more than 20% more than the previous year (2013). This money allows large scale projects to be funded – such as development of the Port of Southampton in the South East, which was financed in 2013 by a £70 million loan from the EIB to help improve container handling and deepen channels, allowing bigger ships to enter the port. The Port of Southampton already supports around 15,000 jobs in the South East, and this investment from the EU means that even more people can be employed or indirectly benefit as the port expands.
Other examples of EIB funding in the South East include a £100m loan to Southern Water to help fix waste water problems in the South East, as there were a number of areas in the South East condemned by the EU earlier this year for failing to meet waste water treatment standards. The EIB also gave a £75 million loan to the University of Kent, which will support the University's £211m five-year estates capital investment plan, which includes the construction of a number of new buildings and improving teaching and research facilities across both campuses of the university.
What if we leave?
Leaving the EU would mean that automatic access to all this investment would stop. It would be harder for researchers to have their projects funded, damaging the South East’s reputation for excellent higher education. British students studying foreign languages and other students who wanted to experience a year abroad would find it harder to get financial support without the Erasmus scheme. This might lead to only wealthy students being able to afford to study abroad – a massive step backwards for social mobility and equality of opportunity. Small businesses would have less support from the EU, and would have to take fewer risks, meaning less exciting new innovation.