EU, UKIP, energy sources and others

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Why are we kept in the dark about what the EU does for us?

Why are we kept in the dark about what the EU does for us?

Sir: You are quite right to complain (leading article, 15 June) that pro-European Union politicians and others have failed to promote the case for British involvement in the European Union. But surely, you and the rest of the press must share the blame for what seems to me a determined effort to avoid reporting to your readers about the issues and activities of the Union.

Every national newspaper reports the UK Parliament on a daily basis (rarely, if ever, pointing out that nearly half its work is often merely giving local effect to EU decisions). But where are your reports of the EU Parliament? Where are the sketch-writers to make us familiar with the leading politicians in the EU?

Where are the profiles of the EU party leaders? Even the British ones are studiously ignored and MEPs are lucky to get their names in your columns once in a term, while the most obscure and uninteresting backbenchers at Westminster are regularly featured.

How often do you report proposed legislation from the EU? Or explain to readers about the processes by which it is made, the opinions of parliamentarians, of the Economic and Social Committee, of the Committee of the Regions, the deliberations of the Council of Ministers?

How often do you point out, when UK politicians blame Brussels bureaucrats for imposing their will upon us here in Britain, that this could only happen if British ministers have agreed to a measure, since they have, at present, a veto in the Council.

Small wonder that so many people in this country are suspicious of the EU when our press and broadcasters are so determined to keep us in the dark.

London W14

UKIP wreckers and the European future

Sir: Now the truth is out. Watching the posturing Robert Kilroy-Silk at the head of his 12 embittered UKIP MEPs, I was struck by his statement of intent to "wreck" the European Union. Not just to withdraw the UK from the EU but to destroy it in spite of all those who wish to be part of the economic, social and political benefits that the EU offers.

Reform and further development of EU institutions is necessary, but UKIP's extreme minority with just 15 per cent support seeks to plunge Europe back into generations of conflict. Go and play your games elsewhere, Mr Kilroy-Silk, and let our children and grandchildren enjoy the peace and prosperity that a stable and united Europe has provided for 60 years.

Eastbourne, East Sussex

Sir: Your front page headline (14 June) misdescribes the vehicle known as UKIP. It is not a bandwagon but a Trojan horse. Voters with nationalistic views more in tune with those espoused by the BNP now have a seemingly respectable political vehicle.

Prior to UKIP's respray with the glossy Kilroy-Silk coating, those voters had to buy into the Tory brand in the hope that the right wing was heavy enough to influence its direction. The alternative was to be seen sporting a socially unacceptable downmarket brand driven by skinheads and racist hooligans.

Labour and Tories will underestimate the power of the newly launched brand at their and our peril.

London W4

Sir: Your front-page attempt to discredit the UK Independence Party (15 June) is missing the point. UKIP voters are indifferent to any lack of diversity, credibility, sobriety, consistency and virtue among the UKIP MEPs, as they don't really care what they get up to in office.

The point of voting for UKIP is to send a message to the mainstream parties that many British people are deeply unhappy with the EU. When the real parties start to respond to this signal, UKIP will have served its purpose.

Horsley, Gloucestershire

Sir: I can't help feeling that the UKIP bubble will not outlive the year. It is charitable of the British electorate to give Kilroy-Silk something to do (in the pay of his beloved EU) for the next four years but single-issue politics has never taken hold. The party seems to be composed almost entirely of white middle-aged men who seem determined to try and return Britain to an imagined 1950s golden age.

The British people will see through this troupe of angry old men because the UK is unlikely to achieve anywhere near favourable terms for a post-withdrawal trade agreement.

I fear that withdrawal from the EU could lead to the break-up of the UK: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would resent the loss of an income stream which is independent of central government and one response could be dissolution of the union followed by separate readmission to the EU.

Reading, Berkshire

Sir: UKIP propaganda has certainly proved that you can fool some of the people all of the time, but does anyone really believe their claims about retaining sovereignty?

If General Motors, Ford and Toyota decide that our attitude to Europe is against their commercial interests, they will transfer their operations out of the UK. Similarly, if Mr Soros, the Hungarian-American financier, decides that he can make another billion dollars by playing the markets against sterling, he will be perfectly able to cripple our currency. None of these people will seek permission from UKIP or any other UK politician. Power to control our own affairs in the world seems limited to having the Queen's head on our postage stamps and currency.

West Charleton, Devon

Sir: No matter how many MEPs UKIP may get, they are impotent to get the UK out of the European Union. Only our Westminster Parliament can do that, and the UKIP's chances of forming a government are about as likely as those of the BNP.

I'm all for nationalism. I'm a member of Mebyon Kernow (the Party for Cornwall). But the best way forward for all five nations comprising the UK is to remain part of the European Union. Let us have nationalism, but let it be the kind which recognises the benefits of an alliance of European nations to counterbalance the mighty USA.

Truro, Cornwall

Sir: Do the Little Britons of UKIP not realise that a stronger cultural identification with Europe is all that stands between this country and complete coca-colonisation? Surely we have seen enough of US culture recently, from the clumsy brutality of Iraq to the woeful consequences of adopting the American approach to diet and exercise, to give anybody a serious attack of the willies.

Isleworth, Middlesex

Sir: Given UKIP's success in the elections and the tendency of europhiles to regard those who do not share their enthusiasm as, at best, benighted idiots and, at worst, borderline racists, might I, as neither a UKIP supporter nor a europhile, outline why I feel Britain should approach the question of greater EU integration with extreme caution?

I am familiar with all the supposed benefits a fully integrated EU will bring, but I feel that almost all the advocacy is tinged with a certain unworldly and adolescent idealism. It is naive to imagine that a stirring anthem and oodles of goodwill can weld together 25 disparate cultures so that we will all play by the same rules and bury our national interests for the greater EU good.

I am extremely concerned that, for example, the EU shows no political will to deal with glaring inconsistencies such as the Common Agricultural Policy (which heavily favours the French for purely domestic reasons) or the outright flouting by France and Germany (again for purely domestic reasons) of the stability pact.

Too much intellectual dishonesty pervades the justification for greater EU integration. For example, when europhiles say that the United States of America exists harmoniously enough so why not a European Union, they choose to forget that for the US to become what it is today involved a very bloody civil war.

St Breward, Cornwall

Sir: I voted for UKIP and I am neither right-wing nor anti-Europe. I am against the centralisation of decision-making because it undermines accountability, disempowers the electorate and often makes for bad law.

One small example. A friend of a friend runs a small, animal-welfare-oriented sheep farm. Until recently, the sheep were humanely slaughtered on the farm, with minimal stress. Now the EU has brought in legislation closing down small abattoirs, so the sheep have to be transported miles to a central unit.

And if you don't think sheep are that important, spare a thought for the Swedes, who are now forced to lug their culled elk across great distances to refrigerate them immediately to comply with EU law, because it hadn't occurred to Brussels that outdoors in a Swedish winter is colder than the inside of a fridge.

Or you might consider the thousands of health food stores that are threatened with closure because the EU is passing legislation which demands futile testing (presumably on more long-suffering animals) of hundreds of alternative products which are known to be safe.

One doesn't have to be a xenophobe to deplore having to pay people to make this kind of mess of things.

London SW9

Energy sources

Sir: An important aspect of the debate about energy sources that is largely ignored is nuclear terrorism.

The argument for reinvesting in nuclear energy - recently revisited by James Lovelock - is strong, because its carbon dioxide emissions are negligible. Set against the problems of fossil fuels and the poor performance of renewable energy sources, the localised pollution of nuclear power starts to seem tolerable.

However, if there is to be widespread construction of nuclear power stations across many countries, keeping tight control over the spent fuel will be extremely difficult. In the 1970s there was considerable disquiet about the ease with which spent nuclear fuel might be reprocessed and atomic bombs constructed by terrorists. The issue of nuclear terrorism will become far more problematical if nuclear power plants proliferate.

Perhaps global warming will make it inevitable that we move to nuclear power as our main source of energy. If so, control over spent fuel is a key issue.

Leeds University

Sir: In case Jim Lovelock is too modest to rise to his own defence, may I point out that David Chaytor (letter, 2 June) should be taken to task for failing to do his homework or to live up to the "intelligent" part of his All Party Group's name.

Far from Lovelock having undergone a "flip-flop" on nuclear power, he has held his present views as long as I have known him, which covers the past 30 years. And of all the people I know, Lovelock is the one most likely to put his money where his mouth is and accept a nuclear power station in his back yard. Although it may be hard for a politician to understand, Lovelock means what he says. As it happens, I don't agree with him. But as he is a man of complete honesty and integrity, and as well as being intelligent, he is always worth listening to.

Visiting Research Fellow in Astronomy
Sussex University

Sir: Ms Craven (letter, 4 June), who considers the development of wind power within the UK as misguided, fails to remember two basic facts.

Firstly, onshore wind power is the most commercially viable renewable energy source in the UK today. Secondly, the physical effects on the landscape of wind-power development can be easily and cheaply reversed. Wind turbines have, on average, a life-span of 25 years. After this time, if there are more renewable energy sources available, the turbines can be removed from the site, so that within a few months the landscape will look almost identical to its original state and there is no contamination of the ground, unlike most decommissioned power stations.

Tidal power is a fantastic concept and there can be very few people who do not want it to become a reality in the future, but in the mean time the source of wind that we have in the UK, as Europe's windiest country, should be exploited as much as possible.

Watford, Hertfordshire


England's pride

Sir: Why is it that those most eager to proclaim their pride in England appear to be those of whom England should be least proud? Is there a metaphysical law governing this inverse relation?

Headmaster, King's School
Rochester, Kent

Metrically minded

Sir: I contest Richard George's assertion (letter, 14 June) that "there are very few parents of young children" who are "over 37". My wife and I are 45 and expecting our fourth child any day now. Although not educated in the metric system at school, I think I do understand it quite well and, anyway, I am sure our 16-year-old daughter will be able to translate if there is any confusion.

Iwerne Minster, Dorset

Homophone horrors

Sir: Congratulations to Nicholas Harling on a dazzling display of homophones in the first three paragraphs of his report on the Spain-Russia match (14 June). "Shear bloody mindedness" was followed by "rye smiles" before Russia's defenders found themselves "backpeddling" - and I'm by no means sure that this was due to a fear that Vicente would "skim them on the outside".

South Kirkby, West Yorkshire

Take no notice

Sir: As a relatively recent arrival from Australia, I am more than a little concerned at the risk posed to the general public by the good old British bobby. Signs proclaiming that "Police Drink Driving Kills" and "Police Speeding Kills" (both presumably resulting in the ubiquitous "Police Accident") are all too common. Surely we can expect more from our guardians of law and order!

Frodsham, Cheshire