EUROPE: Exit would spell disaster

I was hugely impressed by Peter Watts’ excellent, thoughtful letter on the bizarre political trajectory taken by our new MP (Northumberland Gazette, January 7).

I have no allegiance to any political party or dogma as a middle-of-the-road voter, who feels lucky, thanks to humane, thoughtful, moderate British and European politicians of various persuasions, to have lived through many decades of peace and prosperity.

Our Berwick-upon-Tweed constituency is traditionally politically moderate and has for most of my life been on a healthy cup between Conservatism and Liberalism. The six per cent of the electorate who wanted to leave Europe with the UKIP candidate came in fourth place.

This rural constituency has benefitted hugely from the Common Agricultural Policy, both through direct support and through continental markets for our produce.

Throughout my farming career I was always acutely aware of the debt that working British farmers owed to the political strength of our European colleagues via Brussels, despite urban-dominated Westminster governments. Recently, Lynn Truss, the agriculture minister, said the Government had formulated no plans for UK agriculture or its support in the event of Britain leaving the EU.

It is not just agriculture, but all sectors of the economy which are surely entitled to solid economic analysis of their future prospects outside Europe before a referendum, rather than patronising, un-costed assurances that it will “all turn out fine”.

The ‘Brexiters’ say that the EU will want to continue trading with us so they can sell us German cars and French wine. The first fact they miss is that unless we have a thriving economy we can’t afford to trade with them. The second fact is that much of our economy consists of outposts of European-owned businesses. Has anyone bothered to ask the foreign investors who own 80 per cent of the UK Stock Market for their views on Brexit?

The most logical outcome is that the Pound will fall and we will rapidly become a second-rate, low-skill, low-wage economy. That may be great for the wealthiest one per cent in the stockbroker belt, but dismal indeed for most people in already hard-pressed regions like ours.

Two senior executives from Barclays and HSBC explained to a Commons Select Committee that it would be bad enough for the economy if we managed to remain in the European Economic Area (but with no influence on policy, including immigration), but if we left Europe completely it would be a total economic disaster for the country. There appears to be very few economists or industrialists backing Brexit.

I have taken a look at the ‘Conservativesforbritain’ website and apart from our own MP, and three outliers in Cornwall and Wales, the MPs involved are essentially all in wealthy regions of South East England, which have absolutely nothing in common with our economically-struggling rural constituency. There are also nine members of the House of Lords, with an average age of 75. The whole group is led by an 84-year-old.

In a once-in-a-lifetime decision like this referendum, the track-record in sound judgement and common sense of those lobbying for our vote demands careful consideration. Sadly, the antics of some of Ms Trevelyan’s new pals are hardly confidence-inspiring.

There are two ministers, one whose slashing of benefits to the disabled and the poorest has been a national embarrassment, and the justice minister whose £120 court charge led to the fiasco being withdrawn. There is the ex-defence minister who had his friend sitting in on sensitive meetings, the chairman of a bank that was saved by the taxpayer, and so on.

Many are hostile to climate science. Perhaps they opposed Sir David King’s 2004 report, which recommended major extra expenditure on flood controls due to the rising threat from climate change. This country could have been 25 years closer to an economy based largely on our own free renewable energy, creating vast numbers of productive jobs.

Subsidies? The invasion of Iraq and its aftermath have so far cost US and UK taxpayers around £5trillion. The Middle East and its fossil fuels could by now have been of much less importance to us and we might not have been quite so responsible for creating the fanatics, the thousands of deaths and millions of refugees.

Our grovelling to an increasingly dysfunctional US (President Trump or Cruz, anyone?) has brought us infinitely more trouble than all the bureaucrats in Brussels. Despite the fact that poor Sweden, Denmark, Greece and the rest bear no responsibility, Europe is nobly struggling with the aftermath.

Aidan Harrison,