LETTER : The `world' is no alternative

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From Dr Stephen Haseler

Sir: Andrew Marr ("Make way for the globe-trotting trader", 16 March) too readily concedes aspects of the Tory nationalist case. He reports that the up-coming, government-sponsored conference "Britain in the World" will become the moment when a new focus - a Eurosceptic "return of national self-interest" - will be unveiled by the Government. And he suggests that

many would agree that an unsentimental view of British interests suggests that we must turn our attention elsewhere [than Europe]

and that

figures partly bear out the Eurosceptic case that exports to new [non- Euro] markets are becoming progressively more important.

Before getting carried away by this new nationalism - in which Britain is supposed to become some sort of offshore equivalent of the "Asian Tigers" with low costs (very low costs) and "flexible" labour markets (very "flexible" labour markets) - it is important to appreciate some fundamental truths.

First, for all the talk of falling exports to European countries, this reduction is only a few percentage points, the result primarily of the recent 1990s recession. More important still is the fact that much of our recent "worldwide" exporting success is the result of increased exports from British-based, foreign-owned companies. Our Eurosceptics had better understand that these foreigners will only remain located here while we remain in the European single market. What's more, our fellow Europeans are not going to allow us to remain in this single market if ultimately we refuse to accept the disciplines of a single currency, preferring instead to cheat by devaluing and inflating.

This coming government-sponsored conference, like its title, has all the hallmarks of another exercise in Tory nationalist pomposity and delusion - yet another attempt to wriggle free from the inevitable European future. It shouldn't need saying, but: the empire's over folks, we need to adjust and quickly.

Yours sincerely,


London, W8

17 March