European Elections: Wary Buxton keeps 'twin' at arms length: When it comes to taking the European waters, Germans in a twinned spa town show greater enthusiasm than the English

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The Independent Online
THE Baker's Arms is closer to Germany than most Buxton drinking holes, but eight years of friendship-through-pub-football has not yet made the smoke room a nest of Europhiles.

Buxton (pop 20,000) has enjoyed regular exchanges with its German twin, Bad Nauheim, and many have involved taking something stronger than the spa waters.

The Baker's regular fixtures with Willie's Pub FC have been jolly affairs, but lunchtime regulars yesterday formed a flatly sceptical back-four at the bar.

None was keen on Brussels becoming Europe's political play- maker and Peter Bones could not resist getting his xenophobic retaliation in first. 'The Germans bombed our chippy,' he guffawed. 'When they come in here, there's normally someone starts goose- stepping.'

If twinning has done little for Derbyshire wit, it has succeeded in breaking down many barriers, according to Malcolm Brew, Buxton chairman of the Bad Nauheim twinning committee. Mr Brew, a retired quality control manager, worked regularly in Europe. Exchange programmes have involved a wide cross-section of Buxton life, from schoolchildren and catering students to musicians and artists. But Mr Brew believes the flourishing links with Germany do not go far enough.

'It tends to be the same group of people who host guests from Bad Nauheim. It is sad. It's very difficult to get people to commit themselves,' Mr Brew, 59, said. 'I'm not politically involved, but I like to call myself European, and from my experience I can see major advantages in a single currency.

'I don't think we are involved enough in Europe. Too few people understand what's going on. I have a lot of faith in the understanding twinning has promoted, but when it comes to closer political links, there is this suspicion around that we could lose our independence.

'I don't understand why the attitude prevails. Through twinning, the common people have become involved with the common people of other countries. We've had them say: 'No way am I going to Krautland', and they've gone and had a great time and made lasting friendships.'

At Buxton market, most people approved of the links with Bad Nauheim. Frances Daunt, 28, had not been involved in any exchange, but will vote tomorrow for closer European integration. 'I think it's important for Britain to be part of a more united Europe; the rest of Europe seems to be doing better than us,' she said.

Mike Wosencroft, 31, who is retraining at college, looks forward to a shift of power to Brussels. 'It would be a way of reversing many Tory policies,' he said.

'London is a giant bureaucracy, bigger than Brussels, and it works against us. A workers' charter would be a good idea. If European companies can be efficient, why can't ours? I can just about remember Britain entering the Community. We should have gone in earlier . . .'

Back at the Baker's, Nicholas Rowcliffe was preparing to vote for the first time in a European election. 'They are taking a bigger part in our lives, and it is time we got our fingers out.'

Kevin Bradbury worried about European regulations limiting the overtime he works and, behind the bar, Mark Nicholson despaired of expensive regulations from Brussels 'which Spanish beach bars would ignore'. But the game-plan that won the bar's approval came from a voice in the corner. Terry Corrigan looked up from his pint to detail fluently opposition to a common currency, to diminished powers of veto, and restraints on deregulation.

It could have come from the Conservative manifesto, and probably did. Mr Corrigan is a local Tory councillor. The Baker's Arms FC are in Europe, but not yet European.

(Photograph omitted)

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