EUROPE: EU offers a better vision

Anne-Marie Trevelyan used her column to reiterate her opposition to our membership of the EU, (Northumberland Gazette, March 3).

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 19th March 2016, 5:00 am

She invited the readership to imagine how many hospitals could be built and how many cancer drugs could be paid for with the £350million she claimed we’d save every week if we left the EU.

This is the second time in just a few weeks that she’s asked readers to imagine this scenario. I’d like to suggest that your readers don’t bother wasting their time. We do not send £350million to the EU every week.

To add some facts to this debate, the figure of £350million used by Anne-Marie Trevelyan includes our budget rebate, £100million, which is deducted here in the UK before we send money to the EU, so it wouldn’t be extra money, it’s already here.

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Furthermore, we receive back very substantial sums of money to support among other things agriculture, regional aid and research. So unless Mrs Trevelyan is proposing to scrap support for these areas, that money isn’t available to use for hospitals and cancer treatments either. You can’t spend the same money twice, Anne-Marie.

Taking all that into consideration, the cost of our membership falls to £136million a week or £7.1billion a year.

Incidentally, some statistics reduce this figure to £120million, £6.3billion per annum, by deducting some element of foreign aid, which we’re legally obliged to make, but as that does seem to be contentious, we’ll leave it out.

At face value that still looks a huge sum of money, but it’s actually less than one per cent of total Government spending – £750billion in 2015.

This buys us access to the most important market in the world, a market even the most strident of Euro sceptics admits we have to be in.

As far as I can see, any European country wishing to trade within the EU, but not join it, has been obliged to pay into the EU (thus reducing that £7.1billion still further), to accept the principle of free movement of labour (there goes controlling our own borders), and to accept a substantial degree of EU regulation (so much for reducing red tape). All this with no say whatsoever as to the future direction of the EU. How is this taking control of our future?

Perhaps this is why the Prime Minister of Norway, a country which trades with the EU, but is not a member, stated in a recent interview that she believes we are better off staying in the EU. Perhaps this also explains why in July 2015 President Obama made it clear that the US believes it’s in the UK’s best interests to remain in the EU.

If Mrs Trevelyan wishes to suggest that we, and we alone, will be able to negotiate a better deal than anyone else, I’d like her to provide the evidence to show this. I need rather more than some vague notion that the countries of the world are queuing up to put the interests of the UK before the interests of their own citizens because they’re in awe of us. I’ve no problem with Great Britain, but greater than everyone else Britain? I’m sorry, I think you’re getting a little bit carried away.

I’m proud to be British, but it is just an accident of birth. So I’m even prouder to be part of a country which for the last 40 years has embraced the concept of working alongside our neighbours as we try to enhance prosperity and security for all our citizens.

It’s a fantastic aspiration. I see a generation of young people in this country who identify themselves as being both British and European, who move freely around appreciating the best that’s on offer wherever they go.

I can’t find anything remotely inspirational in Anne-Marie’s column, and she certainly isn’t offering something new. It merely takes us back 40 years, to a time when being British gave some a wholly unjustified sense of superiority, a time when Europe was just a place you went on holiday.

I don’t see any vision in that, Anne-Marie, not for me, my daughter’s generation or generations yet to come. I’ll be voting to stay in.

D Wilkinson,