General Election 2017: UKIP on Science


Simon Allen

Paul Nuttall, captain of the sinking ship UKIP, were the final party to launch their manifesto in all its purple, patriotic glory.

I complained about their science policies in 2015. Is it any better this time round?

(Manifesto here)

Brexit and Budget:

For the party that proudly claims to have brought about Brexit, they’ve not given much thought to what happens next. As argued ad-nauseum in this series (see: here and here), the EU has been a welcome boost to British science. So how will UKIP safeguard this?

They won’t. UKIP doesn’t mention how science will be impacted by the biggest political event in recent history.

UKIP haven’t said what kind of UK-EU science agreement they’d aim for, how they’ll negotiate access to the EU’s Horizon-2020 (if at all), if they’d underwrite current research commitments, what’ll happen to the 892 UK researchers leading Horizon-2020 projects, what regulations they’d remove to free up British science, how R&D will be funded, if they’d plug any spending shortfall EU funding currently fills, or if they’d increase R&D funds which lag behind most nations in the OECD.

And that’s not even mentioning how they’ll get a bloc of 27 nations to sign up to their non-existent proposals.

UKIP science spokesperson Dr Julia Reed, famous for her weird speech about Time Lords and trains that goes nowhere, is who we turn to for info. She’s optimistic about British science after Brexit.

If they stick by the their higher education plans, I wouldn’t say it’s well placed. EU nationals won’t be offered loans to study here, and Erasmus would end. To compensate, the party would abolish tuition fees for British science and engineering undergrads, provided they stayed in the UK for 5 years and worked in that sector. This is difficult for scientists, a naturally mobile lot who often have to move around for their jobs. Like geoscientists (see section 5.6).

In a weird turn of events, the party would guarantee EU nationals the right to stay (Liberals, contain your shock).

Their “one in, one out” migration policy has come under fire from the scientific community, seeing how most scientists view immigration as a good thing. Pro-Brexit group Scientists for Britain point out nations with strict border controls still recruit a lot of researchers from overseas.

Scientists generally follow the money, but the study they cite says geography still matters.

Scientists are far more likely to move between neighbouring countries, or countries that speak the same language. Australia sees most foreign researchers from the English speaking US and UK.

Brazil sees more researchers from Argentina and Chile than France or Germany. Germany sees more scientists from the Netherlands and Sweden than China or Japan. Japan sees most of its foreign researchers come from China or South Korea. The UK sees most of its overseas researchers come from Germany and Italy. Scientists we now want to make life harder for by attaching visa requirements to entry.

Skilled labour – like researchers – fall under the Tier 2 visa, and skilled labour shortages often change quickly and unpredictably. The Institute for Public Policy and Research argue point based systems can be restrictive for skilled workers and students, and the process should be simplified. Not tightened.

Climate Change:

Nothing new here. Humans are still driving modern day climate change. UKIP continue to deny this. Here’s their science spokesperson denying climate change after the Paris Agreement. Here’s UKIP calling on Donald Trump to pull out of the agreement faster than he promised.

Their open letter to Mr Trump says the findings by the Environmental Protection Agency regarding carbon dioxide emissions have “no basis in science”. They also say the Climate Change Act has no basis in science. Just like their manifesto.


Unphased by evidence, UKIP energy policy hasn’t changed. Roger Helmer is still UKIP energy spokesperson. Their views are the same as 2015. They’re still as wrong.

The party would repeal the Climate Change Act (ugggh), boost fracking (uuuuuuggggh!), and scrap renewable subsidies and feed-in tariffs (UUUUUUUUGGGGHHHH!)

Because Brexit, invoking Article 50 also means leaving EURATOM. For a pro-nuclear party, UKIP have said nothing about the potential cluster-calhoun the nuclear industry is facing from leaving EURATOM.

The Environment:

UKIP are confused about the environment. They want a return to incandescent bulbs, despite how grossly inefficient they are (but then a lot of problems stop being problems when you deny climate change).

The party, like the Greens, would look at introducing a plastic bottle deposit scheme to fight marine litter. It won’t work as well as they hope.

Their science spokesperson acknowledges the damage biofuel production has on rainforests. But they voted against a motion put forth by the EU parliament in 2016 that would have made palm oil more sustainable. UKIP argue the issue requires international collaboration between countries. Nations working together in some sort of “union”, if you will.

Public Health:

UKIP continue their trend of acknowledging threats to public health, and not doing anything about it. For example, their science spokesperson acknowledges mercury in the environment is harmful to human health. They agree with proposed EU regulation to better monitor and control the amount of mercury released into the environment. They failed to support the legislation.

They acknowledge the dangers of air pollution, but opposed EU directives to cut it. Rather than reducing the number of polluting diesel cars, they’d reverse measures to disincentivise diesel.

Keep in mind, a Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health report says exposure to outdoor air pollution shortens life by about three days per person. Air pollution causes respiratory issues in young children. It stunts lung development in young adults. The government estimates the health effects of air pollution cost the UK £16 billion a year. The World Health Organisation puts the figure at 3.7% of GDP.

And, despite this cost to our health and our nation, UKIP would make the problem worse.

The party would reduce alcohol consumption by repealing the 2003 Licensing Act. Post-legislative scrutiny says it might work, but points out most booze is bought in supermarkets and off-licences these days. On obesity and smoking, the party is silent.

In a break with Nigel Farage, UKIP wouldn’t #420 blaze it. Cannabis would stay criminalised. UKIP focus on cannabis and its mental health impacts. Here, the party might be onto something. The most comprehensive review to date by the US National Academies of Science (the full 400-page report is here) looking at 24,000 studies and some 2.2 million patients, found cannabis use is linked to developing social anxiety, schizophrenia, psychosis and (to a lesser degree) depression.

Of course, the review found cannabis has many benefits, and isn’t linked to illnesses like cancer or asthma. Whether drug decriminalisation is in the national interest is a different question. Here are two good pieces on the topic (here and here)

UKIP justify their burka ban by saying (among other things) they cause vitamin D deficiencies. There is some evidence wearing a burka reduces the amount of vitamin D you synthesise (here and here). But the same can be said for any clothes. Half of the UK’s white population is vitamin D deficient, with the highest numbers being in the north and Scotland.

If they’re that concerned with vitamin D deficiency, UKIP might as well ban Scottish people.


UKIP would shift farming subsidies to smaller farms, and subsidise farmers who don’t put antibiotics in their feed. The party agrees farming should ensure animal health and welfare. You’ll never guess how they voted when the issue came up in the EU Parliament.

One change that may come for UK farming after leaving may be GM crops. UKIP disagree with the EU moratorium on GM crops, and argue that each nation should be able to decide for themselves if they grow them. They still want GM food labelling, which is still a controversial idea.

So do they deserve my vote?


#GeneralElection2017 #Politics

0 views0 comments