Letters: The benefit of European Union membership outweighs the cost

These letters are published in the print edition of The Independent, 20 May, 2013


The economic case to stay in the EU is overwhelming. The creation of the Single Market was instigated by Britain, and is now the world’s largest trading bloc, containing half a billion people with a GDP of £10 trillion. To Britain, membership is estimated to be worth between £31bn and £92bn per year in income gains, or between £1,200 to £3,500 for every household.

What we should now be doing is fighting hard to deliver a more competitive Europe, to combat the criticism of those that champion our departure. We should push to strengthen and deepen the Single Market to include digital, energy, transport and telecoms, which could boost Britain’s GDP by £110bn.

The Prime Minister is rightly working hard on a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and US which could be worth as much as £10bn per year to the British economy. On exiting the EU, we would lose not only the benefits of this free trade agreement, but all 37 already in existence. Renegotiating these would be costly, time-consuming and the UK alone would lack the colossal bargaining power of the EU.

The City of London is Europe’s global financial centre. Some of the EU’s ideas put this standing at risk. So the Government needs to work hard to protect it. But there is also a huge opportunity to promote London’s capital markets to help solve the problems of the EU banking system. We should promote the cause of EU membership as well as defend our position. The benefits of membership overwhelmingly outweigh the costs, and to suggest otherwise is putting politics before economics.

(Signed in a personal capacity) Roland Rudd, chairman, Business for New Europe; Dame Helen Alexander, chairman, UBM; Sir Win Bischoff , chairman, Lloyds Banking Group; Sir Richard Branson, founder, Virgin Group; Sir Roger Carr, chairman, Centrica; Sir Andrew Cahn, vice chairman, Nomura, public policy EMEA; David Cruickshank, chairman, Deloitte LLP; Lord Davies of Abersoch, vice chairman, Corsair Capital; Guy Dawson, director, ASA International; Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, deputy chairman, Scottish Power; Sir Adrian Montague, chairman, 3i; Nicolas Petrovic, CEO, Eurostar; Sir Michael Rake, chairman, BT; Anthony Salz, vice chairman, Rothschild; Sir Nicholas Scheele, chairman, Key Safety Systems Inc; Sir Nigel Sheinwald, non-executive director, Shell; Sir Martin Sorr elL, chief executive, WPP; Malcolm Sweeting, senior partner, Clifford Chance; Bill Winters, CEO, Renshaw Bay

May I suggest that the Scottish nationalists have unknowingly mistimed the independence referendum for Scotland. Instead of a simple question of whether to remain part of the UK and EU or take full independence, probably within the EU, there is now a possible third option. This will be whether to remain shackled to the Little Englanders on the outside of the EU. This is a far different proposition – and unfortunately the Scottish referendum comes first.

Malcolm Calvert, Holyhead, Anglesey

Your recent Europhile correspondents (Letters, 15 & 16 May) have excelled themselves in their support for the UK’s continued membership of the EU. And, of course, they think that ridiculing and demonising their opponents will clinch their arguments. But, nowhere do they address the EU’s democratic deficit. While “Europe” as a concept may not be at the top of the electorate’s concerns, most people believe that MPs, once returned to Westminster, should have the power to carry out the wishes of those who elected them. Yet our MPs are hamstrung at every turn by EU directives and regulations made elsewhere, and over which they have little control. This is not what most people understand by democracy and is not what I and millions of others voted for in 1975. None of this seems to matter to the eurofanatics; to them, democracy is for nutters.

D Stewart, London N2

Pakistan is not one single culture

I am a Scottish, Pakistani Muslim, and now live in London. Pakistan does not present the world with immigrants from one all-binding culture, so why don’t some of your readers stop trying to force one label on all of us? All of my cousins are university educated and live with or are married to people they love, of all nationalities, colours and religions; like any other normal middle-class British family. We are as far removed from those perverts from Oxford as you are from Jimmy Savile.

Why should I reflect on “my community” and apologise for them? They disgust me. When I read the accounts from their victims I am sickened, and I look at my nieces and want to hug them and protect them from all the evil men in this world. My reaction is exactly the same as yours.

It irritates me when religious leaders apologise for those paedophiles. They are not Muslims. Give me a break. Just because you are born into a family that stems from an Islamic country, that does not make you a Muslim.

I suppose they feel compelled to quickly apologise and reflect on our community and all that nonsense, to try to placate any backlash the Pakistani community will receive as a result of the heinous crimes committed by a few uneducated, backward, misogynist men whose parents happen to come from the same country as mine. If you think that somehow “being from Pakistan” is related to the appalling actions of those men, then you are a racist and you should deal with it.

Meniss a Saleem, Hampstead, London

Theresa May’s fooling no one

I would urge readers not to be taken in (or to think the police service will be either) by Theresa May’s announcement of a “whole-life tariff” for those who kill police officers (leading article, 15 May). Having just retired after 30 years in that job, I doubt there are more than a handful of officers in the country who strongly believe that murdering one of their own is so uniquely heinous that it should attract a longer sentence than, say, killing a child or one of the many civilians who risks his or her life each year in trying to resist a criminal.

Police officers in general just wish for longer sentences for all premeditated murder. Full stop. The Home Secretary’s announcement is simply the most obvious of attempts to curry favour with a service that is experiencing a massive crisis in confidence in this Government, the worst I have ever known by a very large margin. Her actions are quite, quite pathetic and I very much doubt that anyone in the Government actually supports the idea (as opposed to the underlying deceitful motivation) either.

Mark Crumpler, Chorleywood, Hertfordshire

Short, Helpful (If Tenuous)

A simple abbreviation could provide the answer to the problem of naming the remainder of the Union. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, universally known as “FYROM” may provide a precedent. Might the “Former United Kingdom” be acceptable? Although on second thoughts...

Adrian Lee, Yelverton, Devon

Brussels doubts

We are told we don’t want to be run by Brussels. But can any of your, readers produce an example of a law, that would change if we left the EU?

Nick Bion, Reading

The poverty tax

You report (Business, 17 May) that “the National Lottery operator, Camelot, has enjoyed a bumper year, despite the poor state of the economy”. “Despite” should read “because of”.

John Riches, Brighton

Students are not passive consumers

Yet another gripe about the “limited” contact time between academics and their students (report, 15 May). A couple of points should be made.

To start with, the hike in fees from £3,000 to £9,000 has not made most universities better off. The increase has merely offset the Coalition Government’s draconian cuts to universities’ teaching budgets as part of the austerity package. It does not constitute additional money for universities, merely a different source of income.

Second, what would be the point of increased contact time if it merely led to students being spoon-fed, rather than learning to think for themselves by independent study and research, albeit under guidance from academic staff? Ministers and employers would be the first to complain if universities simply churned-out graduates who cannot think creatively and solve problems, as a consequence of increasing the amount of time in lectures in return for higher fees. Sadly, the Government seems to view students as passive consumers, paying for a product just as if they were in a supermarket buying a loaf of bread or tin of baked beans. That is not what a university education is about – and neither should it be.

Professor Pete Dorey, Bath

Poorest hit hard by hidden costs

The poorest UK citizens are hit far harder than the OECD study of 34 developed nations reveals (report, 15 May). None of the figures you quote show the impact of inevitable rent arrears – and the legal costs of their enforcement or evictions – as a result of the bedroom tax, the housing-benefit cap and the £500 overall benefit cap.

Many councils are charging 8.5 per cent to 30 per cent of the council tax, plus the legal cost of enforcement and the bailiffs, against benefit incomes which cannot meet the rent. These personal debts of the poorest households have been created deliberately by a pitiless government seeking to cure a housing shortage by forcing decent people to move into a market where housing is in short-supply, in a country which has lacked an affordable-housing policy from any Government for the past 30 years.

The consequences are a visit to a food bank, utility bills unpaid and long queues at local GP’s surgeries due to the intolerable stress of unmanageable debts.

Rev Paul Nicolson, Taxpayers Against Poverty, London N17

Retirement kills?

I read with some degree of levity that the Institute of Economic Affairs suggests that retirement can be bad for your health (report, 16 May). This raises two interesting questions. Is this some scheme to encourage older people to work longer and therefore deprive youngsters of getting on the work ladder? And how can playing golf two or three times a week, keeping the garden up to scratch and more interaction with neighbours be less healthy than my previous existence of either sitting in an office or sat in the firm’s vehicle for eight hours a day?

Mark Robertson, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire

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