However you feel about Brexit, don't call us Little Englanders

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Friday 20 January 2017 17:45
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Theresa May is being criticised for her hard Brexit strategy
Theresa May is being criticised for her hard Brexit strategy

As a firm Remain voter and Europhile, I was most discouraged at the response of the German press to Theresa May’s two major speeches this week. Deriding us as “little Englanders” is calculated to anger even Remain voters. While I am not happy with Brexit, and certainly not with a “hard Brexit”, I would say that I am most disappointed with some of the hostile reactions coming from Europe.

The UK has been a net contributor to the European budget and one of the few European countries that has correctly supported Nato, which protects Europe, with the required 2 per cent or more of national GDP. Germany’s contribution to Nato is at 1.19 per cent of its GDP despite being the most financially sound and dominant political force in Europe. It is ironic that Greece, Poland and Estonia, with far weaker economies, are paying their fair share into the Nato budget.

“Little Englanders” have fought two major European wars, against great odds, to protect the right of many of Europe’s peoples to live in a free democracy. I hope that those in Europe who currently ridicule and malign us as a result of the Brexit referendum vote will remember that fact.

Anne MacCallum
Milton Keynes

Previously, Theresa May appeared to be either ambivalent or a disinterested Remainer. Now she is tending towards xenophobic nationalism, according to El País. She tells us that this is what people voted for.

A very small majority of the population who voted wanted to leave the EU. It is not possible to say that their desire to halt all immigration or to opt out of a European justice system is a reason for an unnecessarily hard Brexit. After all, many would have appeared to have voted to leave on the basis of a suggestion that the NHS would receive an extra £350m – and I don't see that happening any time soon.

Geoff Forward
Stirling

In all the turmoil around Brexit about economics and freedom of movement, there is a gaping hole in the debate. It has been there from the beginning. Had it been raised earlier on, perhaps we would not be in the position that we are now.

My parents’ and grandparents’ generations became EU citizens. They lived in a pre-EU world; they know that life will go on (though in what guise, who can say) because it existed before. Perhaps for them, for Theresa May and for Jeremy Corbyn, shrugging off the cloak of Europe will not be too onerous. It is inconvenient, of course, and expensive, no doubt. But it is manageable.

I, however, did not become an EU citizen. I was born an EU citizen. For me it is not a cloak, it is my skin. Those 12 stars have been on my passport as long as the lion and the unicorn. I was brought up as part of something bigger, part of a major peace project that, although bureaucratic, represented unity and solidarity.

I have long considered myself a European first, a Brit second. Theresa May's “hard Brexit” will rob a generation of a fundamental part of their identity. Let’s not forget that there is a generation below us who also hold this identity and were not consulted in the decision over their future at all. I will certainly be bringing up my children in a European spirit, even if not with European passports.

We have seen countless times before the anger and resentment that is caused by the denial of people’s identities. Nobody is thinking about the future impact of a raging generation whose politicians have let them down over and over again, then stolen a fundamental part of their existence.

How will we be compensated for this? What will replace it? Faith in “Great” Britain? I'm no patriot; I need more, something bigger. We need promises of more than trade, we need promises of unity and friendship – and concrete actions for how this will be achieved.

Philippa Watts
London SE13

Theresa May will go into history as the last and worst Prime Minister of Britain. We are facing an independent Scotland, Northern Ireland sunk in violence again, the City transferred to Frankfurt and CO2 increasing as England trades with the farthest possible countries – including the US, where everybody knows that a deal with Trump will leave him richer and you poorer.

Gerald Zabell
Mijas, Spain

George Soros invested more than $1m in Hillary Clinton shares. She promptly crashed and burned. He now bets that Theresa May will be post-Brexit toast. May's record in bucking the political doom-mongers speaks for itself, suggesting she will buck the Soros theory too.

As Tory chairman, she was written off as a non-entity. She went on to become the longest serving Home Secretary in modern times. In 2005, the PM was widely predicted to lose her head as an MP in a Liberal Democrat “decapitation” strategy. She survived and went on to increase her majority at every general election. Condemned as a hopeless ditherer over Brexit, this week the press hailed May as the “new Iron Lady” for her robust EU exit plan.

Soros speculates that Trump will fall and take May down with him. On the contrary, Trump will see out his term because he will serve his apprenticeship with a stern boss to keep him check. She will prove a hard taskmaster with no option to tweet. Soros, you're fired – unless you plan to squirrel away Theresa May bonds to cash in around 2027.

Anthony Rodriguez
Staines Upon Thames

I am so fed up with these British exit supporters harping on about no second referendum. This was a second referendum. We voted, with a much larger majority, to stay in the common market in 1974. So there is no reason we cannot have a third vote once we know the terms. Any plebiscite with such a close result must be examined carefully.

D Leddy
Ottershaw, Surrey

When I was four years old, in 1973, the UK Parliament voted overwhelmingly to give me a new set of rights as an EU citizen, rights that rose above the rights I had as citizen of the UK and rights I still enjoy. A recent example prevents my UK mobile provider from further ripping me off for calls made on holiday in Spain, a European Court directive protecting the continent's consumers against corporate greed. Whether parliamentary approval is required to revoke these rights is what the UK Supreme Court is settling on Tuesday, as Article 50 starts a process which could revoke them by default. The likely outcome is the requirement of a Commons vote, largely irrelevant since parliament will rubber stamp it anyway, deferring to the referendum result.

But Theresa May has now confirmed that, at the end of negotiations with the EU in a couple of years’ time, parliament will vote to ratify the deal. Much more importantly, May warns that failure to get parliamentary approval means she'll go with the “no deal” nuclear option. She's thrown the gauntlet down to the Supreme Court by saying that if the house votes down her eventual deal, it won't mean revocation of Article 50 but of existing rights by default, and therefore two fingers to the Magna Carta and sovereignty of parliament.

Stef Wickham
Sarawak, Borneo

A new era for American politics

As President Obama took his last bow, the striking sight of the sea of humanity, a mixture of multiple ethnicities and genders, braving the bitter Chicago cold Tuesday night to bid farewell to President Obama – a path-breaking President, good husband, caring father and man of integrity, honesty and decency – was a testament to the people’s admiration for the outgoing president not only in America but all across the world. This is a man who made history eight years ago, whose election exemplified the American values of tolerance and equality.

Even the President’s ardent critics ought to concede that Obama was instrumental in steering the nation out of its terrible recession. His signature accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, has made health insurance accessible to millions of previously uninsured Americans.

The President’s farewell speech was oratory at its best. It came straight from his heart and reached those who watched with mixed emotions over what’s next. After profusely thanking the people who propelled him into the Oval Office, Obama ended with his hopeful message: Not only “yes, we did,” but also “yes, we can.” This hope is what America is all about.

Atul M Karnik
New York

Trump’s ongoing infatuation with Vladimir Putin is extremely troubling. His stubborn refusal to release his tax returns has cast a dark shadow on his presidency and may well explain why he dismissed the findings of his intelligence agencies who blame the Kremlin for hacking the DNC’s emails which tilted the presidency in his favour.

There is mounting evidence that Trump’s romance with Russia is closely linked to his business interests. Crushed by mounting debt from his failing casinos, Trump was mysteriously rescued by a shadowy Iceland-based corporate entity thought to be financed by Russian oligarchs. Many of the oligarchs were prime customers for Trump’s properties. For example, in 2008, he sold a Palm Beach mansion to billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for $95m. This seems to fly in the face of Trump’s claims that no such entanglements exist. More alarmingly, Trump has hinted that sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine may be lifted. As a further gift to Russia, Trump suggested the US may not come to the defence of the Baltic States to thwart a possible Russian invasion and mocked Nato as being irrelevant. If Trump succeeds in undermining Nato this would be a huge boost to Russia’s sphere of influence and Putin’s popularity.

Finally, to ignore Russia’s role in supporting the brutal regime of President Assad who has slaughtered tens of thousands of his people is an affront to the core values we claim to cherish.

Jagjit Simgh
Los Altos, California

You report that President Lincoln’s Bible has had only three outings so far (Donald Trump inauguration: President-elect to be sworn into office with Abraham Lincoln’s Bible, 19 January). Presumably it has never been opened at Matthew chapter five, where Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount warns against swearing oaths “either by heaven or by earth”. The message appears to be, “let your yes be yes and your no be no” (James 5:12)

Rev Peter Sharp
Chester

Talking shop

There is some truth in Satyajit Das's argument that the World Economic Forum in Davos has become a talking shop and that its attendees have become disconnected from the real world. However, it is much more complicated than this.

We live in an age of generational turmoil and uncertainty. No one has a clear mandate to unfurl the rich, complex and unpredictable cluster of interlacing political, social, economic, health and environmental concerns that drive unrest and instability in our world. Who could explain the Trump's victory, Britain's vote for Brexit, the surge of populism, or to find plausible solutions to the refugee crisis, the implacable trajectory of diseases, climate change, illicit drugs, homicides, genocides, social alienation, political chaos, religious persecution?

We can only hope that decision makers will navigate difficult paths, cross new frontiers and forge new partnerships to foster pluralism, diversity, global justice and opportunity, gender parity, reproductive health, global solidarity and entrepreneurship.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
London, NW2

Tunnel vision

There has just been a much feted arrival of a freight train from China to the United Kingdom via the Channel Tunnel. The Northern Ireland ports are on the doorstep of the North Atlantic and the great circle route. Therefore a rail tunnel under the north channel will place the United Kingdom in a pivotal position between two major trading routes namely transatlantic trade and the New Silk Route. Let's seize this opportunity.

John Barstow
Pulborough, West Sussex

Space for another?

Regarding the ruling on bus wheelchair space in the 19 Jan issue what is to happen if the wheelchair space on a bus is already occupied by one or even two other wheelchair passengers? Who has to get off the bus? Has the third wheelchair user got a case against the bus company for not enabling them to travel at the time of their choosing?

Michael Heppner
London, N21

Degrees of inequality

Let's be honest: a degree from Oxbridge will undeniably get you a job in nearly anything much more easily than a degree from North Bland Metropolitan. North Bland Metropolitan may be highly respected in its field. It may have staff and research which is ground-breaking and exciting. Sadly, North Bland Metropolitan faces an institutional elitism that defies grades, rankings and history.

Simply put, the Oxbridge brand is so monopolistic that even the fairest HR employee will always prefer the Oxbridge CV over non-Oxbridge, all things being equal. For someone applying to a specialised degree which holds international renown – offered only in one Northern city often ridiculed and looked down upon by the rest of the country – I feel as though my future prospects are halved simply because the university name on my degree says “Bradford”, rather than “Cambridge.”

Attitudes to universities have become not too dissimilar to that of aristocratic pedigree. It doesn't matter what your personal qualities are, as long as you have certain blood inside you. At university, it doesn't matter what you do, it's only where you do it which is important.

Catherine Warr
Leeds

Get real

I’d like to commend the launch of the Be Real Campaign which has been working with charities, schools and public bodies to help build the confidence of young people in the UK. A recent poll delivered by the campaign revealed that a third of the 2,000 teenagers polled avoid getting involved in PE lessons because of the way they feel and look.

In The Boys’ Brigade we have noted similar figures to this relating to both body image and young people’s mental wellbeing and have made considerable efforts to stress the importance of how our organisation and youth work can help provide support and advice in relation to these issues. The BB offers a safe space where our members can discuss how they are feeling and learn about both external and peer pressures that could affect them and how to deal with them effectively. One of our goals is to instil resilience in young people which leads to an increase in confidence and better equips them to deal with various situations they could face in life.

Hopefully more campaigns like this succeed and we can work together to stamp out stigma around mental health and help address body confidence issues, while supporting young people to reach their full potential.

Alan Hunter
Acting Director, The Boys’ Brigade Scotland

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