Letters: Uncertainty over EU threatens UK economy

These letters appear in the 30 March issue of The Independent

As business people, we are clear: to make the most of global opportunities it is essential that the UK remains open for business to the world, and shapes the forces of change in partnership with other countries in Europe and beyond.

There is a compelling chorus of concern across business about the prospect of UK exit from the EU, including in the sectors in which we work. The CBI has warned that the uncertainty is unhelpful when trying to secure long-term investment and that we are better off in a reformed EU than outside with no influence.

EEF, the Manufacturers’ Organisation, has warned that the country risks sleepwalking out of Europe. Leading industries such as the automotive sector, which employs nearly 800,000 people and accounts for 10 per cent of UK exports in goods, has warned of the risk of isolation and detachment from the EU. The stark warnings are mirrored across sectors from financial services to creative industries. 

To argue for EU membership does not mean arguing for the status quo. But it does mean staying in and focusing on reforms to make the EU work better for growth, not least because working with our EU partners gives us access to other markets that we couldn’t get into or not so quickly. Under the Conservatives the UK has lost leadership and influence in Europe.

The Conservative position on Europe has created a huge degree of uncertainty with an arbitrary 2017 date set for an in/out referendum. It is contingent on a renegotiation that the Prime Minister does not know he can secure nor, if he can, how long it will take, what the terms are likely to be, nor whether he will vote for it. Indeed, increasing numbers of Conservative ministers are talking of exit regardless.

In contrast, Labour under Ed Miliband, has given British business certainty, with a clear exposition of the position of the next Labour government: putting continued membership of the EU central to future economic success and working to secure the best deal for Britain in the EU rather than undermining Britain’s influence by simply shouting from the sidelines.

Clive Hollick

Director of Honeywell Inc

Meryvn Davies CBE

Former Trade and Small Business Minister and former CEO

Kumar Bhattacharyya CBE

Chairman, Warwick Manufacturing Group

Charles Allen CBE

Businessman and broadcaster

Denise Kingsmill CBE

Director of IAG SA, Telecom Italia and E.ON SE

Gulam Noon MBE

Director of Noon Group

Willie Haughey OBE

Chairman, City Refrigeration Holdings UK

Janet Cohen

Chancellor BPP University and former director of the London Stock Exchange Group

Parry Mitchell

Tech entrepreneur and investor

 

Messrs Cameron and Osborne assert that the UK’s economy is in much better shape as a result of their policies.

While there appears to be a reduction in the UK’s indebtedness, and employment statistics have improved, it’s hard to see how the shutting of libraries, not repairing roads and throttling NHS spending make the private sector thrive.

It is claimed by David Cameron that growth in  the private sector is the  key; indeed, it might be, possibly through the increase of PAYE monies. But how does sacking public-sector employees increase private-sector revenues? Don’t civil servants pay PAYE too?

Where is the evidence of a demonstrable linkage between the economic outcome and the Government’s policies? Possibly the majority of sacked public-sector folks are now pensioners, claiming pensions and possibly benefits – moved to a different accounting heading, perhaps.

Low oil prices and interest rates are global events outside the control of the Government; US growth is also well beyond its influence.

Perhaps what they are claiming to be their achievement is just the same good old economic cycle and very little to do with their austerity fallacy? Could it be that Cameron and Osborne just got lucky?

Tim Brook

Bristol

 

Essential GM research remains undone

Thanks for your series on the spirited debate on the benefits and risks of GM foods. While generally “on point”, some of the exchanges mischaracterised what the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has said re GM safety.

The NAS has only issued two reports addressing GM crop human health risks, one in 2000 and a second in 2004. Neither addressed the health consequences of the increase in herbicides linked to GM corn and soy beans, nor the novel risks associated with today’s “stacked”, multi-trait GM crops.

Both concluded that the GM crops on the market at the time seemed no riskier than other crops, and that there was, as yet, no strong evidence of harm. But this is a far cry from what GM enthusiasts allege: that all GM crops are for evermore safe, the science is settled, etc.

Plus, these two NAS reports each contains more than 30 pages of recommendations for development of new risk-assessment methods and data sets to guard against the introduction of novel allergens and toxins in the food supply – new research that for the most part remains undone.

The science of GM food risk assessment has progressed much since 2004, and a small, but troubling share of peer-reviewed studies point to previously unforeseen risks. The recent reclassification of glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen” by the World Health Organisation is the latest in a series of ominous developments in the world of GM food safety.

Dr Charles Benbrook

Research Professor, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University

 

Two can be a dangerous number

The “rule of two” mentioned in your editorial (28 March) which is used by some airlines to reduce the chances of an incident such as the Germanwings crash is not without its own dangers. A flight attendant on the flight deck with sinister motives could incapacitate the remaining pilot and take control of the door lock and then the aircraft. It would be considerably easier for a terrorist organisation to infiltrate an airline crew with a flight attendant rather than with a pilot, because pilots’ histories are usually known in greater detail to their employers.

Julien Evans

Retired Boeing 757 captain,

Chesham, Buckinghamshire

 

Since when were the Plantagenets english?

Peter Croft (letter, 28 March) bemoans the fact that British monarchs since the Tudors have been Welsh, Scottish, German and Dutch in origin, but what makes him consider the Plantagenets as English? The dynasty descended from the French house of Anjou and was surely no more English and certainly no less dysfunctional than the descendants of the house of Hanover.

Jonathan Wallace

Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne

 

If Richard III was English, I’m a Dutchman. If, as Peter Croft implies, Elizabeth II reigns as the result of the accession to the throne by a German 300 years ago, then Richard, as a descendant of a usurper 300 years earlier, must be French.

Barry Sheppard

Brighton

 

The Plantagenets succeeded the Normans, who came from France, but originated in Scandinavia. Monarchy has always been an international business; Elizabeth I’s great adversary, Philip II of Spain, was a Hapsburg, a family originally from what is now Switzerland.

John Dakin

Toddington, Bedfordshire

 

Far from inappropriate

Your article on inappropriate requests received by GPs (“Doctor, I have an insignificant little problem...” 28 March) included: “Tap water makes me ill. I can only drink mineral water but my decreasing benefits mean I can’t afford it.”

About 35 years ago I was inexplicably and seriously ill. A GP who specialised in allergies found that chemicals in tap water were the cause. Since then I have been using a filter that converts tap water to “spring water”.

This is not cheap and needs to have cartridges replaced regularly, which are also not cheap, but overall it costs less than buying bottled water all the time.

For someone on benefits or a low income, this allergy must be a nightmare. It’s a condition, not as rare as one might suppose, that should be taken seriously, and for which help should be readily available.

Mark Miller

Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria.

My father, a GP, told the story of being rung at 2am by a patient to say that her cat was desperately ill. His reasonable response was: “Why are you ringing me? Ring the vet!” Her response was: “I can’t ring the vet at this time of night!”

Dr Nick Maurice

Marlborough, Wiltshire

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