At last we may get a debate on Britain’s relationship with Europe (Leader, 11 January). What did the EEC/EU ever do for us? Not much, apart from: providing 57% of our trade; structural funding to areas hit by industrial decline; clean beaches and rivers; cleaner air; lead free petrol; restrictions on landfill dumping; a recycling culture; cheaper mobile charges; cheaper air travel; improved consumer protection and food labelling; a ban on growth hormones and other harmful food additives; better product safety; single market competition bringing quality improvements and better industrial performance; break up of monopolies; Europe-wide patent and copyright protection; no paperwork or customs for exports throughout the single market; price transparency and removal of commission on currency exchanges across the eurozone; freedom to travel, live and work across Europe; funded opportunities for young people to undertake study or work placements abroad; access to European health services; labour protection and enhanced social welfare; smoke-free workplaces; equal pay legislation; holiday entitlement; the right not to work more than a 48-hour week without overtime; strongest wildlife protection in the world; improved animal welfare in food production; EU-funded research and industrial collaboration; EU representation in international forums; bloc EEA negotiation at the WTO; EU diplomatic efforts to uphold the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; European arrest warrant; cross border policing to combat human trafficking, arms and drug smuggling; counter terrorism intelligence; European civil and military co-operation in post-conflict zones in Europe and Africa; support for democracy and human rights across Europe and beyond; investment across Europe contributing to better living standards and educational, social and cultural capital.
All of this is nothing compared with its greatest achievements: the EU has for 60 years been the foundation of peace between European neighbours after centuries of bloodshed. It furthermore assisted the extraordinary political, social and economic transformation of 13 former dictatorships, now EU members, since 1980. Now the union faces major challenges brought on by neoliberal economic globalisation, and worsened by its own systemic weaknesses. It is taking measures to overcome these. We in the UK should reflect on whether our net contribution of £7bn out of total government expenditure of £695bn is good value. We must play a full part in enabling the union to be a force for good in a multipolar global future.
Lecturer in international political economy, University of York
• So, Washington wants us to stay in the EU. Imagine the outcry from inside the beltway were the UK to press Mexico’s case for unimpeded entry of its nationals into the US. The North American free trade area neither makes provision for the free movement of labour, nor would any American or Canadian politician dare advocate such a provision.
Next in line for membership of an ever expanding EU are seven western Balkan states followed by, if our political class has its way, Turkey, Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia. The scale of uncontrolled immigration into western Europe beggars belief. In addition, the transitional restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian labour end in 2014. Britain’s political class seems determined to drive down the wages of our unskilled citizens by importing cheap labour. Treason springs to mind.
Any renegotiation of the UK’s EU membership that does not include an opt-out from the EU accord on the free movement of peoples would be a sham.
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset
• Isn’t the criticism of the absence of mature discussions on the EU merely symptomatic of our adversarial culture?
Whether it is parliament, the judicial system, or television and newspapers, there is rarely any attempt to find common ground. Surely, we should begin by looking to get rid of the adversarial structure of parliament and recognise that there are more sensible and effective ways of debating than throwing insults across the floor of the house.
It is no longer good enough to say that we have always done it this way.
Hale Barns, Cheshire