The EU referendum: a message for trade unionists and Labour voters

Anthony_SeatonProfessor Anthony Seaton reflects on how, throughout his career, the UK’s EU membership has enabled the funding of research which continues to have a profound effect on workers’ health today. He urges us to remember that when voting next week.


We are about to be faced with a vote that will determine the future of the society in which we live. Are we to remain as an integral active part of the European Union or are we to go it alone? Here is one of the reasons that I shall be voting to stay.

You will all remember that Mrs Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979 and remained in that office until 1990. It was not a good time for working people and the economic consequences of her politics have had a profound effect on our lives ever since, with the neo-liberal economics leading to a huge gap between the rich and the poor and economic crashes across Europe (and in the USA where her philosophy came from).

Coincidentally, over the whole of that period I was head of British Coal’s Institute of Occupational Medicine which became a world-leading centre of research into prevention of work-related disease. I spent much time going to Luxembourg to argue for money for our research, money that had partly come from UK and partly from Germany, France and other countries.

As a result of the millions that we brought back we were able to carry out research that led to huge improvements in the safety and health of mine workers and also build up expertise that allowed us to make important contributions in many other areas of workers’ health. Among other things, the work led to recognition of chronic obstructive lung disease as a specific result of coal dust exposure and thus compensation for many mine workers. Even after the demise of British Coal and the UK deep coal industry, the Institute remains as a non-profit charity continuing its mission of shedding light on environmental hazards to health and prevention of disease.

Remember, all this happened during the rule of a UK Government that would hardly be regarded as a guardian of workers’ rights. It happened because we had a strong voice in Europe. It was an example of how influential we can be in the scientific field and in the fight for workers’ rights. We still have a strong voice, though you wouldn’t know if from the debate currently raging. Please think of this when you vote.

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11 thoughts on “The EU referendum: a message for trade unionists and Labour voters

  1. The idea that funding for research will end if the UK leaves the EU is propaganda is coming from all the vested interests that are happy to eat crumbs from the EU table instead of eating the crumbs why not have more hardy meal in the form of extra funding for research from the money saved that is normally spent on funding this undemocratic EU. The UK puts more into the EU than it gets out we need to keep UK money and spend in the UK on the NHS, Schools, Doctors, Housing for the people of the UK and take back control.

    1. Yes, the EU have thrown OUR cash into certain groups pockets for many years. Now it’s pay back time and the vested interests are doing their duty and lining up to praise the EU.

      Anthony, you have done a lot of good work and I’m not knocking it. Nevertheless, it’s nothing that we couldn’t and shouldn’t be doing ourselves.

      Overall, workers rights, pay and conditions in the UK have got much worse over the years. The UK labour movement is now so weak that’s it’s actually frightened of a Tory Government.

      We are no longer capable or even willing to fight our own corner.

      Ted is right when he states that too many “are happy to eat crumbs from the EU table”.

      Ordinary working class people deserve better than this. Much better.

      Vote Leave

      1. Aye, but your both happy enough to get on yer knees and beg for the crumbs fa the Westminster table.

        1. Davy, your “mock” scotch is coming on nicely.

          In fact, you’re almost ready for the next stage when you will be able to use words such as “Wastemonster” and “rid Tories”

          Looks like, its mock Scotch for the plebs and Gaelic for the elite.

          Welcome to the SNP’s bright new Scotland.

          It’s enough to make you weep.

          1. Born in the Broch, a fifth generation Aberdour’er, and currently biding in Moray. Normally I would take your comment apart, but tonight is not the time.

            RIP , to a wife, mother and hard working MP to her constituents, our prayers are with you.

          2. Its the bit where you think your replies are erudite clever relevant and answers anything when they are nothing but an open admittance you have nothing to contribute you’re incapable of debate at any level and yer pretty clueless about everything.

            And you cant stop advertising the fact to the world.

    2. What makes you think a Blue or Red Tory Government would use the money they don’t give to the EU for anything other than warmongering London vanity projects or more infrastructure for the SE of England?

      All this crap about how much money the UK will save is worthless when we all know ideologically criminally corrupt UK Governments wont spend any money on any worthwhile civic necessary projects when they can find ways and means to filter it all over to the private sector.

      Id rather the money was spent by the EU than any London Tory.

  2. You missed the point. Do you think Mrs Thatcher, David Cameron or Boris Johnson would be more enlightened that the EU on workers’ health or the NHS? Scientists work with our colleagues in Europe collaboratively to do the research that backs industry. It’s not just about money but sharing expertise and opportunities. Another personal example – our air pollution standards are shared across Europe, ensuring a level playing field for industry. Where do you think this “red tape”, which saves countless lives, came from? Well, they were set by the UK committee that I chaired and our civil servants persuaded the other Europeans to adopt them.

  3. “they were set by the UK committee”

    Anthony Post Brexit you can continue doing your work in the UK and if it is any good then scientists in the EU can adopt it for the EU, so if the UK funds UK research then its not a problem so keep up the good work.

  4. Add this article to all the other arguments in favour of Remain. I know it may be premature, but the murder of Jo Cox on the same day as Farage’s horrendous poster, surely shows the danger of some of the Leave campaign’s toxic rhetoric.

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