Readers’ letters on the EU referendum debate.
WE HAVE NEVER LOST CONTROL
A leaflet handed to me by a ‘Leave’ supporter repeats the words ‘Take Back Control’ three times. This strikes me as odd as we have never lost control, so we can’t take back what we have not given up. Proof of this fact is that the government has ordered a referendum on Thursday, June 23, so that we can decide for ourselves what we think is best for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – Remain or Leave. We will still be a sovereign nation, whatever the outcome of this particular vote.
During the Scottish Independence Referendum campaign in 2014, the Nationalists kept referring to ‘Westminster’, implying that their country was being run from London, despite the fact that the Scottish Parliament has devolved powers to make its own decisions in ‘Holyrood’. In the same way, ‘Brussels’ is the seat of the European Parliament but we are not controlled by Belgium or any other one member state, and much of our law is still made in ‘Westminster’.
The UK elects 73 members to the European Parliament and they have an important role to play in law-making which affects the whole of Europe. The British Isles benefits from this co-operative approach and our national interests are best served by engaging in debating and negotiation in ‘Brussels’, rather than walking away into isolation.
-- David Nettleton, Bury St Edmunds
A SMALL FISH IN A VERY LARGE POND
There is really only one fact that should direct the EU referendum debate. Everyone must agree that geographically we are a small dot on the map, and along with that we have little in the way of natural resources.
I have lived through a world war in which, without the might of the USA, we could now be part of Germany, and not Germany as it is today.
With the rise of the huge superpowers of Russia, China, India, the Middle East as well as the USA, do we really want to be a very tiny fish in a very large pond indeed? These superpowers are increasingly able to control the crucial supplies of gas and electricity, on which we depend, as well as food supplies. Even considering our good intellectual heritage, we need the natural resources to develop our ideas, and we are very dependent on imports for these from these countries. We could be held to ransom.
Whatever the problems with the EU, and there are some, they are insignificant when the world wide picture is considered in the long view.
Think long term and Remain in the EU. It is the only safe prospect for our children and future generations.
-- Joy Knowles, Bury St Edmunds
DEMOCRACY OR TYRANNY?
This is the first election in a long time when our vote really could be a blow for or against democracy, compared to having to choose between the usual political parties whose policies you could not separate with a cigarette paper.
But the narrow focus of the Remain and Leave campaigns on finance, immigration and the NHS creates confusion and cynicism, as indicated by recent letters to your paper. Campaigners target these as issues of ‘uncertainty’, allowing constant use of ‘fear’ and ‘hope’, instead of reasoned argument and clarification. Our political leaders believe that the likes of you and me, the electorate, will respond only to the stick and the carrot, treating us like voting fodder. We should show much more trust in and respect of each other’s views and ability to see which side people are on in this debate.
Setting aside all of the conflicting statistics and ‘evidence’ that are thrust in our faces, this vote is a choice between democracy or tyranny. The EU is essentially anti-democratic to its core and cannot be reformed. Under the Maastricht Treaty, the European Commission, made up of 28 appointed commissioners, is the only body that can make new regulations. The unelected EC President, Jean-Claude Juncker, and his 33 personal staff set its weekly policy agenda. The European Parliament occasionally sits to rubber-stamp all new regulations. The Treaty specifically bans MEPs from sitting in national groups (they sit in political blocks), or from promoting their own national interests. The EU has overruled and dismissed the electorates of France, Denmark, Holland, Ireland, Portugal and Greece; assaulted workers’ rights and conditions in France, Italy, Portugal and Greece and treats the peoples of Eastern Europe as its economic backyard.
The EU acquired to itself in 2014 the power to punish and exclude national governments it doesn’t like and used this against Greece. Jean-Claude Juncker has also threatened punishment recently against Poland and Austria and has openly threatened to punish the British, should we Brexit. Why be a member of a club that threatens not just expulsion, but retribution should you dare to question its rules?
Why then do most MPs, the Lords, media, business leaders, academic experts and economists all support the EU? They cannot bring themselves to trust the electorate, nor respect our individual and collective views. Their disdain for us is such that they prefer to give away our political control over our country, borders and laws to the likes of Juncker.
All of us, who are the least bit distrustful of the EU and its control, but wanting a better Europe, should vote out of the EU next Thursday, and those voting Remain, be clear you are supporting those in power who want to dictate over us. It’s as simple as that.
-- Tony Pierce, Bury St Edmunds
EU HAS DONE SO MUCH FOR WOMEN
The European Union’s decision to grant member countries more flexibility in setting zero VAT rates for women’s sanitary products is a win for women across Europe.
If we left the EU, the rights so many British women depend on would be thrown up into the air. From setting up cross-border networks to tackle human trafficking and domestic abuse, to enshrining in law equal pay for equal work, maternity and paternity leave, Europe has done so much for women. It is worth remembering that equality between women and men is one of the founding values of the EU. The principle of equal pay for equal work became part of the Treaty of Rome in 1957. It wasn’t until 1970 that the UK introduced its own Equal Pay Act.
But this deal on sanitary products is also a timely reminder of the UK’s influence in the EU and the impact we, as a hugely influential country, have on decision-making.
Eurosceptics go to great lengths to portray the UK as weak in Europe but time and time again are proved wrong. Whether it’s the leading role British MEPs played in abolishing mobile roaming charges or this country’s crucial contribution to cutting red tape for British businesses, the UK is continually at the forefront of policy-making in Europe.
It is precisely the powerful impact we have in Europe and shaping policy for the good of British people that many of us can often forget. On June 23 I don’t want us to be leaving Europe, I want us to continue taking a leading part in it.
-- Perry Morley, Chair, Bury St Edmunds Liberal Democrats
THERE’LL BE NO WINNERS
We are now in the ‘home straight’ as far as the referendum is concerned and, at 64, I hope I never see another in my lifetime. Far from being ‘an exercise in democracy’, it has been a depressing and negative experience. Whoever ‘wins’ on June 23, will carry off nothing but a pyrrhic victory: a win by either side will leave almost half the electorate dejected and depressed. This campaign has, on both sides, been characterised by deceit, half-truths and fear, and has only served to split our major political parties and the nation itself.
Referendums (or referenda if you prefer) are not part of our political landscape. Ours is a Representative Parliamentary Democracy in which we elect politicians to consider complex problems and make difficult decisions on our behalf. Granted, it is not a perfect system by a long chalk; however, we have reformed it in the past and can do it again. That flexibility is what makes the system of parliamentary democracy work, not this deceitful, fear-filled, one-off, lynch-mob style of confronting complex and far-reaching issues.
On June 23, there will be no winners, and the damage done to our national life will take a long time to be repaired.
-- Martin Webb, Bury St Edmunds
THE PROJECT IS BROKEN
The referendum campaign has been uninspiring, to say the least. The debate should not be about personalities, nor should it be party political, nor should we bombarded by questionable statistics. The issue quite simply is whether we want to belong to the club called the EU about which we have heard very little in the course of this campaign.
We know that democracy is not a high priority in Brussels, but this doesn’t seem to worry some people. We know that our Prime Minister sits down with 27 other leaders to thrash out policy issues, even though some of them are former communists whose countries have questionable human rights records. We have seen recently how the system fails to cope when the going gets tough. We have also witnessed chaos in the management of the Euro Zone caused mainly by countries being allowed to join which failed the basic tests. All the signs are that the whole EU project is broken and will most likely collapse, probably following the failure of the Euro project.
So the question we should be asking ourselves is: would we consider joining if we weren’t a member already? We wouldn’t. So the choice now is to vote ‘Leave’ and get out while the going’s good; or to vote ‘Remain’ until the whole edifice comes crashing down. Not much of a choice, but the former will be less painful.
-- David Wedgwood, Cowlinge
IT’S A VOTE FOR OUR CHILDREN
I’ve lived in two countries on mainland Europe, and I believe we have been told that problems can be blamed on the EU as a way to hide the sorts of benefits the EU has brought to everyday life.
For example, I live in a village that has a problem with long distance haulage crossing our medieval centre. This causes us enough damage without also having to worry that they’ll be dozy from excess hours behind the wheel. Thank you EU, for keeping their driving hours (and those of our local bus drivers) at a safe level.
We also have a right to a family life. My daughter-in-law will have maternity leave, pay and protections thanks to the EU. Women in my community possess part-time workers’ rights and can claim equal pay for work of equal value – both important to mothers. We have rights to holiday pay. We can claim our human rights and consumer rights thanks to the EU. I appreciate the environmental protections and progress asked for and funded by the EU. I also want to leave a world where opportunities for my grandchild are not stifled by isolationist nationalism.
Speaking of which, I’m also voting ‘in’ because I work with medical and veterinary researchers, and the ease with which they can work beyond borders, coupled with EU funding for their work, are really important to the development of solutions to problems around health, disease, diet and more. Through them, I know that EU funding is crucial for the development of the UK’s knowledge-based economy.
Then there’s the NHS: our local hospital is like a mini-UN, and I mean the staff.
Finally, I’ll mention the island of my ancestors, in Scotland. Forty years ago, the first time I was there, they had the most expensive electricity anywhere in Europe and they had it only nine hours every day, when the ‘electrician’ was at work. An EU grant brought them first a cable from the mainland, and now a wind turbine.
It’s true that I am not entirely comfortable with some of the supporters of the ‘In’ campaign, but in the end this vote isn’t about who I might want to go to the cinema with – it’s about how we and our neighbours, our children and their children will live our lives.
-- Linda McPhee, Clare
VOTE REMAIN TO PROTECT NATURE
Remaining in the EU is what nature intended.
The green spaces we know and love are better protected thanks to EU nature laws and, with just days to go until the EU referendum, it’s time we put nature at the centre of the debate.
Iconic wildlife hotspots in this region including Devil’s Dyke, Fenland, the Nene and Ouse Washes, Portholme and Orton Pit have an important extra level of protection under EU law.
Nearly 300 green spaces in Britain benefit from being part of an EU-wide network of protected areas. Almost 11,000 square miles of our country’s most precious wildlife sites are recognised as special areas of conservation by the European Union for their rare and endangered species.
Many of those wishing to leave the EU see nature protection as an unnecessary burden on UK business. It is incredibly important to protect our wildlife at an international level – the animals and habitats we take for granted locally are often rare in Europe – and the European Union is absolutely the best place to work together with our neighbours to do this.
To ensure these places stay as nature intended, to protect the many valuable conservation sites that so many people enjoy, it is vital we vote Remain.
-- Jean Lambert MEP, Molly Scott Cato MEP & Keith Taylor MEP, UK Green MEPs