Letters: Cameron's European gamble

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Last year Germany tried to renegotiate the European Treaties to include reference to a fiscal and financial union, which her government believed to be essential to building confidence in the eurozone. She failed to persuade her 26 EU partners to agree.

Is it likely that Mr Cameron will be more successful? The Prime Minister must be very careful about building expectations in his party which he is unlikely to be able to meet. Already uncertainty about the UK's intentions regarding the European Union is affecting the strength of sterling and the prospects of overseas investment. Differences in the Conservative Party must not be allowed to jeopardise our economic recovery.

Shirley Williams

House of Lords

David Cameron is right. Of course we want to continue to enjoy our trading relationship with Europe, but we do not want to become the subjects of a federal European political regime.

These separate issues, of trade versus politics, have been deliberately conflated by pro-European federalists, who frame an "In or Out" question in such a way that it becomes a stark choice for the UK of either economic suicide or remaining in thrall to Brussels, thereby obliging us to choose the latter option. This is a false proposition.

Yes, we want to continue to trade with our friends in Europe, but we also need to recover our means of self-government. And the two objectives are by no means incompatible.

Alan Stedall

Birmingham

Dominic Lawson is wrong on two counts in his article on an EU referendum (16 January). First, the only people clamouring for a referendum are a small, vocal minority of xenophobic eurosceptics and their populist cheerleader, Nigel Farage, who think that they can exploit the euro crisis to achieve their goal. Sadly, the majority of people in this country are too apathetic about politics to be clamouring for anything.

Second, whatever a referendum may be it is not an exercise in democracy, but rather a chance for the disaffected, aided and abetted by a few zealots, to take it out on the political establishment while the majority stay at home, as was demonstrated in the vote on AV in 2011.

We live in a representative democracy, in which we elect our parliamentarians to take strategic decisions on our behalf. Had they been doing their jobs properly and explaining the benefits of EU membership, the debate about an in-out referendum would have ended before it began.

Ian Richards

Birmingham

If we left the EU the US, in pursuit of its self-interest, would turn its back on the UK in favour of the EU, or possibly even on Europe itself, in favour of the Far East. What puzzles me is why Ukip thinks that either scenario would be in the UK's best interest.

Christopher Yaxley

Shrewsbury

Europe is one of the major players on the world stage. The EU will have the major role in shaping the type of Europe we see in the future.

While there will be those here who will not care, preferring to navel-gaze, this country will become increasingly irrelevant if it does not take part. If it seeks to model itself on the likes of Norway, it will end up with the international clout of Norway.

There would indeed be a lot at stake should the Prime Minister start the process towards withdrawal.

Alex Wilson

High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Helicopter crash raises questions over planning

The tragic accident at Vauxhall has highlighted the trend of Thames-side development in building oversize "high-rise living" developments, all in the name of selling "breathtaking views of the river" to purchasers.

These ghastly grandstands dwarf their surroundings, satisfying the vanity of their owners while blocking off the sightlines of everyone else with their hideous cliff-like backsides. They should have had no place in the capital. The tower in question is particularly gross, and how the planning authorities ever granted permission beggars belief.

Ian Bartlett

East Molesey, Surrey

Back in 2005, I appeared as an expert witness at the planning inquiry into what was known at the time as the Effra Tower, aka No1 St George's Wharf. I was representing Westminster City Council who, together with Lambeth Council, opposed this stand-alone tower as being inappropriate and harmful to the central London townscape. Mayor Livingstone was a principal supporter.

The appeal was dismissed by the planning inspector, who accepted our arguments, as did senior civil servants. However, the minister, John Prescott, felt able to set aside this body of informed opinion and granted consent.

The Vauxhall Tower and the Shard raise serious safety issues about flight paths across central London, resulting from impact of these gross tall buildings, which limit the scope for aircraft to take evasive action.

Tony Tugnutt

London WC1

Horse sense on supermarkets

The Tesco horse burger has been a great dish for Joanna Blythman (Comment, 17 January) as food for her fight against supermarkets. What she doesn't say is that their overwhelming market dominance contrasts dramatically with an excellent track record with regard to food poisoning outbreaks. They are not the villains.

I chaired inquiries into two enormous outbreaks (both with fatalities), one in Scotland in 1996 and one in Wales in 2005; neither had anything to do with supermarkets but were caused by local butchers behaving illegally.

Hugh Pennington

Aberdeen

Food critics are busy telling us that horse meat is fine to eat. The BBC this morning had a commentator saying that it is "impossible" to completely track the contents of processed meat.

The Tesco PR campaign has shifted into overdrive with "offending products" removed from shelves. Your leading article (17 January) lambasts the supermarket, the Government and public scientists for not knowing the provenance of much imported meat, and you tell us that we "have no alternative".

Tesco will work day and night, moving heaven and earth to tell us that all is well, nothing need change and that "normal service will be resumed" when in fact there is an alternative and things should change.

Now is a great opportunity to make the case against processed foods of many kinds and to highlight the role that the supermarket giants play in driving down quality as well as costs in many areas.

Simon Greenhalgh

Parbold, Lancashire

Personally I never eat commercially produced burgers, preferring to make my own. They are simple to make and I would urge others to try it.

The result is a very tasty burger, with no preservatives or additives, and, more importantly, the maker can have precise control over the amount of horse that goes in, rather than having to rely on the frankly derisory amounts it now appears that the supermarkets have been getting away with.

Colin Hayward

Fareham, Hampshire

Not like the Duchess

The Duchess of Cambridge's portrait was bland and, worse, a poor likeness because of proportional errors. For example, the eyes look too piggy because the distance from nostril to eye is too long and the face is too fat. This is a subtle art and a few millimetres can make all the difference.

As a painter, I differ from sculptor Sara Neil's opinion (letter, 16 January) that, for a lifelike result, it's essential to get to know your sitter. If the artist is accurate with proportion, colour and tone a "speaking likeness" emerges automatically.

Speed of execution – requiring a minimum of sittings – whilst enjoying lively conversation with the sitter, ensures the finished painting is fresh.

Anne Chadwick

Chichester, West Sussex

High-street dinosaurs

While it is very sad for employees of Jessops and HMV to lose their jobs at this time of year, the loss of these retail outlets needs to be put into perspective. If internet traders can supply goods cheaper and more conveniently than town-centre shops (with all their parking problems deliberately engineered by local councils), then these dinosaur enterprises will become extinct.

Perhaps if HMV had not alienated customers like myself by stopping stocking their traditional 78s, I might have been persuaded to continue shopping there. As it is, my needs are now more than adequately catered for online.

John Eoin Douglas

Edinburgh

Clash of empires

Chris Miller (letter, 16 January) writes "Mali is the new target" and refers to "Western imperialism". But that is not the only imperialism at work. The Islamists are guilty of appalling cultural imperialism in forcing their foreign practices on the unwilling inhabitants of northern Mali. The French forces are there with the blessing of the Malian government, and several neighbouring African countries are in the alliance. When will the anti-colonialists accept that these alien Arab ideas are equally imperialist, and equally damaging to Africa?

Ian Craine

London N15

Winter surprise

Snow has fallen. Winter is here. (It does that, regularly.) Panic stations. And the AA and RAC report that 75 per cent of drivers are unprepared for winter. Did they think it was cancelled this year? And why is it not a legal requirement for vehicles to fit winter tyres between November and March? There'd be a lot fewer skidding and stuck cars out there.

Elspeth Christie

Kirkhaugh, Northumberland

Offensive defence

The businessman Chris Tappin has been sentenced to imprisonment in the US for selling batteries for air defence missiles to Iran. Why are the Americans and their allies so concerned at Iran being able to defend itself from air attack?

George L Heath

Harwich, Essex

Cunning plan

If I turn off the colour on my television set and watch in black and white, do I qualify for a monochrome licence (letter, 16 January)? Or, failing that, where can I purchase a digital black and white set?

Paul Horbury

Batley, West Yorkshire

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