How stupid can you get?
Posted by hkarner - 1. Juli 2016
Source: The Economist
Subject: Cornwall and Europe: I owe EU
Why did the region that benefits most from EU membership vote against it?
REDRUTH, a hardscrabble town of 14,000, was once at the heart of Cornwall’s mining industry. It sat atop the most bountiful earth in the “old world”, a local museum boasts: to the east, the “Copper Kingdom” of Gwennap; to the west, the Central Mining District. The county was hit by the collapse of mining in the 1980s, and few areas suffered as much as Redruth. It is still among the poorest places in Europe.
That has made it eligible for hefty support from the European Union. In 2007-13 the EU poured €654m (£534m or $890m) into Cornwall; another €600m or so is due by 2020. The county is the only part of England to qualify for “convergence funding”, which goes to places whose income per person is below 75% of the EU average. The money has helped to pay for roads, a university and high-speed internet.
Yet on June 23rd 57% of voters in Cornwall opted to leave the EU. Local business owners are “shell-shocked”, says Kim Conchie, head of the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce. Many feel let down by their MPs, almost all of whom supported Brexit. Some businesses have stopped recruiting amid the uncertainty. The council has begged for funding to continue (to some scorn from parts of the country that voted to Remain). As a holiday spot for rich urbanites, Cornwall may look affluent. But “there are areas of great deprivation”, says John Pollard, the council’s leader.
Steve Double, a local Conservative MP and Brexiteer, remains sanguine. He notes that leading Leave campaigners pledged that post-Brexit there would be enough money around to match EU support, at least until 2020. Others point out that the same funds have been promised elsewhere. Most reckon that European money comes with fewer strings attached, takes a longer-term view and is less reliant on political patronage than Westminster cash. “We’ve bitten the hand that feeds us,” despairs one business owner.
Yet when asked if they are worried by the consequences of Brexit, Cornish voters demur. The economic situation isn’t a big concern, says one pensioner, since “in two years’ time it will all be ironed out anyway.” Some reckon the area will benefit from the removal of EU fishing quotas and from no longer having to fund high-living Eurocrats. They are unconcerned by warnings from on high: “Everyone is fed up with scaremongering from the government,” complains Harvey Weeks from behind the counter of a greengrocer’s. Those who are worried tend to be those who voted to Remain. Waking up on Friday, “I just thought, ‘My God, you stupid bastards, you’ve gone and done it!’,” says one shopkeeper.
As elsewhere, much of the debate was about immigration. Cornwall has few migrants, admits Mr Double, but people have been warned by those who moved in from other parts of the country, he claims. Demography partly explains Cornwall’s enthusiasm for leaving: its population is old (24% are over 65, against 18% nationwide) and fewer than average have a university education. Some reckon a sense of Cornish separateness also played a role. “The Cornish are quite anarchic,” says Mr Conchie. They “took the opportunity to give the elites a damn good kicking”.