Look on EU as a form of insurance

From: Michael Swaby, Hainton Avenue, Grimsby.

GEOFF Sweeting repeats his question: “What is the benefit of our (EU) membership?” (Yorkshire Post, February 1).

The benefit is easier to identify than to quantify; it is the fact that Britain now plays a direct part (not just diplomacy) in governing the whole of Europe.

Early last century, virulent nationalism and diplomatic failure combined to produce continual tension and instability. Don Burslam rightly mentions the two wars, to which might be added the 1931 financial crisis.

While it is acknowledged that the Great Depression started with the Wall Street crash of October 1929, it did not reach Europe until May 1931, when a major bank in Austria, Credit Anstalt, found itself in serious difficulty. Not only had it “borrowed short and lent long”, it had large foreign borrowings, and had been absorbing failing small banks.

An attempted rescue turned out to be too little and too slow, and Credit Anstalt closed its doors. The problem then turned into a slow-motion financial train wreck across Europe, involving runs on banks and currencies, the continual question being asked “who is going to be next?”

It was then that Britain’s 1925 decision to overvalue sterling against gold came back to haunt us. It had diminished our competitiveness, thereby weakening our exports and gold reserves.

The pressure steadily increased and caused the fall of the Labour government on August 24. On September 21, 1931, the new National government announced the decision “to suspend for the time being the operation of the gold standard”. This was a part default, creating heavy instant losses for many valued friends, allies, and trading partners.

Any major disaster on the Continent will find its way here, and my view is that our membership of the EU is best regarded as a necessary form of general insurance.

From: Nick Martinek, Briarlyn Road, Huddersfield.

IT is a pity that Don Burslam hides behind epithets like “crass” (Yorkshire Post, January 31), but I suppose that is because his pro-EU arguments are so weak. Moreover, accusing me of “extreme Europhobia” is fatuous, both at the personal level because of my family’s European background; and because it is simply inaccurate: I am opposed to the EU, not Europe.

But then accuracy was never Mr Burslam’s strong point. Perversely, he seems to believe that the lesson of “two catastrophic world wars” (and presumably the Napoleonic war that preceded them) should be to actually eliminate independent European nations – as though it was independence that caused the wars rather than tyrants.

The UK fought for independence, often alone, precisely to restore the glory of independent European nations that Mr Burslam now sneers at.

A centralising political edifice like the EU does not protect us from war any better than if we were separate free democracies.

Yet we have paid for this false solution (the EU) by being disenfranchised and unable to hold our top tier of government to account, and with large amounts of money.

The EU is a very bad bargain indeed.

Seek shelter in Europe

From: Ross Taggart, The Avenue, Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees.

LAST year, you published a letter from myself in which I asserted that, using the oil spill as their excuse, the Americans were blatantly attempting to seize the assets of BP for themselves.

I also said that the subsequent enormous loss to Britain of both dividends and tax would be greatly damaging to our economy. I believe that recent economic indicators, particularly the public borrowing requirement, now bear out that assertion.

It is often claimed that the one good decision made by the otherwise disastrous Gordon Brown was to “keep us out of the euro”. I believe this to have been another error made in the days of financial hubris.

It is glaringly apparent that somehow or other, we need to be within the financial shelter of Europe. We are an isolated and vulnerable situation and at the mercy of nations, foremost among them the US, who see our weakness as an opportunity for exploitation.

Our political leaders must swallow their pride. Indeed, I think they will soon have little choice.

Hoping for help with fees

From: Stephen Davis, Barncliffe Close, Fulwood, Sheffield.

Am I alone in thinking that the time has come for a radical shake-up in the “university system”?

Phds in Coronation Street, MAs in the Beatles, degrees in third century harpsichord, and doubtless over-worked lecturers.

Whatever next I wonder?

Presumably a doctorate in Star Wars lurks somewhere within a curriculum.

I wish to attend university, however, have yet to decide upon one of three courses viz : Phd in Coronation Street, MA in The Beatles, or even a degree in third century harpsichord.

Will I be eligible for help with university fees?