Letters: Anti-Europeans should be careful what they wish for...

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, May 16th, 2013


The anti-Europeans in the UK should be careful what they wish for, and the Continental Europeans must be heartily sick of the British right and their interminable moaning. I hope that our Continental siblings will finally draw a line in the sand and tell the Brits to “put up or shut up”; no negotiations, no opt-outs, just pipe down or go. The anti-Europeans will find that a world dominated by giants like the US, China, India and Russia is a very cold and lonely place for little Britain, with only its delusions of grandeur to keep it warm.

D Sawtell, Tydd St Giles, Cambridgeshire

To those who think Eurosceptics are “Little Englanders” (Letters, 15 May), I would like to ask a question. When were you last presented with the opportunity to vote for or against a programme of government for the EU? This fundamental lack of democracy is built in to the design of the EU. The only vote we get is for MEPs, and all they can do is vote against legislative proposals. As many of your letter writers suggest, most people in Britain are not very interested in the EU and do not care much about this lack of democracy. Others like the idea of being part of a big club and generally agree with what the EU does, so they are happy, too.

Democracy has taken hundreds of years to achieve and, while far from perfect, should not be given up because, as one letter writer suggests, “we are all supra-national now”.

Julian Gall, Godalming, Surrey

It is interesting that those Conservative MPs trying to establish a new “cultural meme” among the British population related to strident Euroscepticism, have ignored the persistent fact that Europe is a relative non-issue among a large segment of the British population, and trying to mask failures over jobs, growth and immigration policy by blaming everyone but yourselves is pitiful. Indeed, in recent surveys, the stay-in brigade, largely composed of the younger generation, are still dominant.

Jon Kingsbury, Totton, Hampshire

Gove hooked on classics

Michael Gove (Letters, 16 May) may take some comfort from the advice given me by my training vicar on the eve of my ordination: “You cannot minister to women until you have read Middlemarch”. So – somewhat to the surprise of my bishop – I took the novel with me on my ordination retreat. But I was 30.

(Canon) Anthony Phillips, Flushing, Cornwall

Sex grooming has an ethnic base

I am becoming increasingly irritated by the apologists in the media who suggest that the Rochdale, Derby, Telford and Oxford cases are not anything to do with a particular ethnic group. I am not suggesting that paedophilia is limited to any particular group, but this specific form of mass grooming of under-age girls for horrendous abuse and trafficking cannot be found in any group other than specific sets of men within the Muslim community.

I have heard several spokesmen from the Muslim community being very clear that there is a problem needing to be addressed, and this should be applauded. On the other hand, I have heard some wishy-washy comments both from Muslim clerics and PC-obsessed white liberals trying to downplay the ethnic slant on these events. Let’s stop trying to pretend there is not an ethnic dimension to these cases and address the issues before extreme right-wing groups take it upon themselves to use it as a rallying cry for violent, racist action.

David Felton, Wistaston, Cheshire

Your leading article “The awful prevalence of sexual grooming gangs” (15 May), said that the question of race must not be allowed to dominate, yet then went on to reveal that detailed research indicated that in 43 per cent of these cases the abusers were white.

Given the ratio of Asian to White males in the UK, that appears to place an axe to the route of the assertion, although, in my view, culture is a more important question than race, the two not always being the same.

Vaughan Grylls, London WC1

Families need land to self-build

So we have Planning Minister Nick Boles and Housing Minister Mark Prisk encouraging councils to find land for families who want to build their own home. Good news in itself, but also needed are methods of achieving this.

When planning authorities zone previous green-field sites as future development sites, the land value rises dramatically. This increase should not be totally to the benefit of the landowners and developers. This simply leads to land speculation, and excessive costs of development land. 

For far too long the major housing companies have held a monopoly. This monopoly needs to be broken. If significant areas of land are to be given development approval, there need to be powers to enforce the division and sale of single plots available to individual buyers. If sold as a single sale of many acres of development land, only the large-scale developers can compete, and therefore maintain their control over development land.

I’ve known of individuals wishing to self-build who have approached housing developers, wanting to buy an individual plot. The developers won’t sell, wishing to retain their control over the supply of houses.

Graham Currie, Bristol

You report that BP and Shell were raided by investigators over petrol price-fixing (15 May): that would be the UK-based BP company  responsible for many deaths of oil workers globally and massive worldwide pollution. And Shell – officially censured for breaking safety rules 25 times in the six years up to 2011 – that had one of the worst safety records of all  the major oil companies in the UK and with leaking pipelines in Africa.

One hopes that the resources and resolve of investigators dealing with occupational and environmental health issues will be as good as those exploring financial abuse. Perhaps we will also finally see effective corporate governance kicking in and holding those who head such companies to account for the deaths and destruction wreaked when they headed these enterprises? Currently such leaders are rewarded with huge pay outs, “honours”, influential roles in Whitehall and places on other company boards.

Andrew Watterson  and Rory O’Neill, Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, University of Stirling

Damn those pesky EU bureaucrats. If it weren’t for their mean-spirited, petty-minded interfering, our good, old-fashioned local petrol companies would have been able to keep fiddling petrol prices. These unelected meddling busybodies are attacking the jobs of all those traditional British workers gainfully employed by traditional British companies such as Texaco and Royal Dutch Shell. And what’s worse, they’re jeopardising this deserving Government’s tax revenues. Why, the British inquiry has established that there is absolutely no evidence of any wrongful behaviour, and this should be good enough for anyone.

James Kellar, Pewsey, Wiltshire

So it seems that the oil companies may have been fixing prices (15 May). Big surprise. If they do manage to catch anyone at it, can we make sure they are prosecuted in the US. America has strict anti-trust laws from almost a century ago which lay down a five-year jail sentence for managers engaged in this practice – and guess who were the culprits back then – the oil companies.

Jail sentences are far more effective deterrents than fines paid by the company – for what I hope are obvious reasons.

John Day, Port Solent

While anti-Europeans try to outdo each other over just how nasty and negative they can be about the European Union, how refreshing it is to see the European Commission launch an investigation across several European countries into allegations of price-fixing (“BP and Shell raided over allegations of petrol price-fixing”, 15 May). Britain could not raid oil-company offices across Europe if it wanted to investigate these  allegations and suspicions. This is a great example of why being part of an endeavour like the EU can help us tackle shared problems, like the behaviour of multinational companies.

Stuart Bonar, Plymouth, Devon

Unsound vision  of Prince Charles

Prince Charles has shown his unsuitability as the potential King in many ways, only one of which  is his eagerness to link up with  the despots of Bahrain (report, 15 May). A lesser but nonetheless important aspect of his  interference is his espousal of architectural mediocrity.

Poundbury, which is in effect a suburb of pretty Dorchester, is one of the ugliest, most chilling places I have seen, reminiscent of the dystopian urban landscapes of films such as Blade Runner. That he is spreading his ghastly vision to other countries is something that will be regretted, probably for generations to come.

Sara Neill, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Impose a church tax like Germany

I heartily endorse John Williams’s letter of 15 May. Since the Church of England is supposed to be the established Church in this country, I fail to see why we do not follow Germany’s example and have a Church Tax. If no funds are forthcoming from the Exchequer, then let us disestablish the Church of England. A Church organist of my acquaintance moved to Norway because there a small-town church had enough funds to pay five full-time employees including the organist and he was recompensed well enough to enable him to buy a house.

Laura Lesley, Steyning, West Sussex

Fairtrade logo on British produce

When I buy bananas or coffee, I can choose to pay a premium for Fairtrade goods, giving workers some degree of security and improved welfare. But when I buy British-grown celery or strawberries, it is deemed that I will accept produce picked by migrant workers paid below the living wage (“Let in non-EU fruit pickers or shoppers will get the pip”, 15 May). Is it time for the Fairtrade logo to be introduced for British produce?

Sue Jackson, Skipton, Yorkshire

UK lite?

Derek Chapman suggests that the rest of the UK should be renamed if Scotland secedes (Letters, 14 May). Wry Scottish Nationalists may delight in the “United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland”; that’s still a bit of a mouthful, so how about my own suggestion of “UK Lite”?

Philip Warne, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire

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