It was a shock to find out yesterday that Britain had voted to leave the EU. Until the first poll results started coming in I had hoped that, as with the Scottish referendum, the remainers would win out in the end. But then I live in London and we tend to vote differently to the rest of England.
While most of my friends were left as gloomy, worried and angry as I was by the result, reactions were more mixed on the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) Facebook group. Beekeepers involved in bee research or working for the National Bee Unit (NBU) are concerned. The NBU currently receives half a million in funding annually from the EU for the UK apiculture program – see the funding tables for EU member states in 2014-16. This funding helps pay for our excellent bee inspectors, who carry out apiary inspections, provide technical assistance to beekeepers and work to prevent bee pests and diseases spreading.
Those who voted to leave are of course optimistic about how the result will affect beekeepers. They argue that there will now be more money to go round and that now the government has the freedom to ban imports of bees, which could help with disease control and promote local gene pools. My answer to that would be that I can’t see a Conservative government – or any government – ploughing funds into supporting beekeepers or prioritising banning bee imports. We’ll be lucky if they don’t spend the extra cash on privatising national forests, eliminating the green belt and building some beautiful duck houses.
Some have lovely ideas that BBKA members should club together and fund the NBU shortfall in funding. I’m sure some of us wouldn’t mind chipping in, but bear in mind that even putting up subscription fees by a pound annually causes much debate at the BBKA Annual Delegates Meetings. Us beekeepers are known for being
stingy buggers money savvy. If the bee inspectors could be persuaded to take payment in honey and home brewed mead that might do it.
Here are a couple of posts written before the referendum on how the EU supports environmental policies:
- The environmental argument for the UK remaining in the European Union – by Jeff Ollerton, Professor of Biodiversity in the Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences at the University of Northampton. One of those “experts” the leave campaign scoffed at. He makes the point that environmental issues cross borders, so working together in coordination with other countries is beneficial for wildlife.
- Vote Remain for Nature and the Environment – by David Craven, a geologist who works in natural sciences and environmental sustainability. David reminds us that the Farming Minister, George Eustice, said “The birds and habitats directives will go” just three weeks ago. These pesky, “spirit-crushing” bits of red tape do unimportant things like protecting our native birds and habitats.
None of us knows for sure what is coming next, but whatever happens I hope British beekeepers will fight together to protect services for beekeepers and flowers for bees.