The arguments currently being used for and against the UK’s continued membership of the European Union show just how far the terms of the debate have changed over the years.
Acceptance of the single market, provided that the way it functions can be changed in various ways to suit our convenience, is now regarded as “Europhile”. It is many years since any significant body of opinion advocated full and active participation in the EU and its development.
We have refused to adopt the euro as our currency, we have refused to join the Schengen area, and whenever there is a proposal for the EU to extend co-operation and unity of purpose to some new area our instinctive response, as often as not, is to seek an opt-out. David Cameron now wants to opt out of the EU’s original core objective of “an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”.
All this gives a surreal air to Mr Cameron’s attempt to renegotiate the terms of our membership of the EU. If he and his government are fundamentally opposed both to the EU’s objectives and the means being employed to achieve them why do they want to continue our membership? It is like joining a rugby club and then complaining that players handle the ball instead of just kicking it.
If we are concerned that we are so generous to EU migrants that we want to restrict paying benefits for four years, surely there is a far simpler, fairer answer.
Pay what benefits the migrant would have had in his/her own country. Thus Polish people can work here, and pay taxes but for four years they will only receive the level of benefits here that they would have had in Poland.
Would the Prime Minister accept curbs on the 1.8 million British people living in the EU in exchange for the restrictions he wants to see on EU citizens in this country?
Talkative generals deserve a reprimand
During my working life in the Civil Service I was “politically restricted”, which prohibited me from being involved in any political activities, and I had to avoid any controversial activity or comment.
I fail to see how such restrictions, which applied to me as a mere provincial Inspector of Taxes, should not apply to Sir Nicholas Houghton as a senior military public servant. Surely he should have to refrain from making public comment on a political matter, such as possession and use of nuclear weapons. Any opinions he might have should be addressed in confidence to government and opposition leaders.
The Prime Minister should severely reprimand him for putting his views into the public domain and remind him that whatever his views his job is to carry out the policy of whichever government is in power both now and in the future while he remains in his post. I look forward to this happening but I won’t hold my breath.
Is it now permissible for anyone in the armed forces to express their views as to the sense or foolhardiness of any policy to be undertaken on behalf of this or a future government?
Ripon, North Yorkshire
Helen Clutton asks for an example of a situation in which a British prime minister would actually launch a nuclear weapon (letter, 10 November).
If President Jeb Bush had foolishly started a nuclear war he might contact David Cameron and say: “I have pressed my button – the one that enables your button on those nuclear missiles you rent from us. It would give the special relationship a huge boost if you’d just press yours.”
It isn’t exactly an independent nuclear deterrent but it must be the world’s most expensive codpiece.
No prime minister could ever press the nuclear button, because if the deterrent has failed, they would not be alive to press it. A few naval officers will have to decide whether to obliterate the other half of the world, wait to be hunted down, or surrender.
What part of cloud-cuckoo land does your Sean O’Grady inhabit (“Corbyn is right about Trident”, 9 November)? Does he seriously think that in the event of any armed conflict a side that possesses a powerful weapon that the other side does not have, the use of which would guarantee victory, would hesitate to use it?
Old Costessey, Norfolk
Poppy appeal should be unnecessary
Many years ago I arranged for the British Legion to help a friend who was a First World War veteran. This enabled him to live his last years simply but comfortably. After that I habitually gave the small amount I could afford each year to the Poppy Appeal. A few years ago I received through the post a poppy and information about paying for it. I realised that over the years the Poppy Appeal had changed from a mark of respect to become big business.
I also realised that as the numbers of Second World War veterans decreases, the proportion of post-Second World War service men and women who are being helped by the fund is increasing. These are people who have, unlike the world war veterans, chosen to make the forces their career.
Whilst not belittling the injuries they have received, both physical and mental, and the effect of premature deaths on families, surely it would be better for their self-respect if they received adequate compensation from their employers rather than having to rely on charity.
Then the wearing of a poppy, whatever the colour, can become a true remembrance of the horror of war and the increased determination to prevent its recurrence.
Offshore taxation only for the big fish
As noted by one of the participators in the Crickhowell traders’ offshore tax scheme (“Welsh town that’s taking its entire tax affairs offshore”, 11 November), the offshore structures used by international businesses operating in many jurisdictions, which can reduce the profits taxable in the higher-tax jurisdictions, can seldom be replicated by smaller traders, as they involve large professional fees and large running costs.
Also, if the taxpayer gets it wrong, there can be large financial, reputational, and even criminal, consequences.
One can sympathise with the traders of Crickhowell, but it seems unlikely that they have found a model to provide low-cost and reliable international tax planning. If they have, then as the money flows in from grateful taxpayers across the land, they will no doubt turn their minds to how to mitigate the tax consequences.
Director, Thomas Eggar LLP
Who wins from cheap steel imports?
We are told that steel businesses are closing and unemployment is being caused because of cheap imports of steel from China. Can we also be told which businesses are benefiting because of them and how many jobs are being created because costs are thus reduced?
G D Morris
Paying to be punished
Unfortunately, David Hindmarsh’s dystopian vision of “users” being charged for the delivery of punishment (letter, 9 November) already happens in some countries: witness the “bullet fee” charged to families of the executed in China and Iran.
This practice has a long and dishonourable history, including Nazi Germany, where the relatives of those beheaded by the regime were charged for both the funeral costs and the headsman’s time.
Capital punishment as a tax-raising measure? There’s a thought for the Autumn Statement.
No surprise that sport is corrupt
Who have we got running the world’s international sporting events?
They are almost all political appointments. Few have any background in sports (Lord Coe is an exception). It goes like this: “You helped the government win the last election. Thank you very much. Here is a ticket to a life in luxury hotels and chauffeur-driven cars.” And we expect such people to refuse bribes? Bonkers.
Public servants in the private sector
Yet another story of an ex-civil servant (this time Sir John Scarlett) retiring and finding employment in the private sector. Like students, perhaps they should be expected to pay back a proportion of salary to reimburse the cost of their skills training provided at government expense during their previous career.
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