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More unites us than divides us in Europe

23 August, 2019

• MARCIA MacLeod wishes to avoid harmonisation, (Europe is a continent not a country with a single aim, August 15). She wants “complete independence”. That is a fantasy.

On trade, there are only a few rule-setters. The three big blocks – the EU, USA, China – account for well over half of world GDP. They write the rules. Our “independent” choice would be whose rules to accept.

On non-trade issues, the EU is involved heavily, at member states’ request, in issues like the environment: pollution crosses borders. On other issues, such as education, health, criminal law, there is barely a role for the EU.

Yes, Europe is a collection of countries; each of which is different. But more unites us than divides us: common history, shared values.

Sadly much of our history has been marked by war. The EU is the mechanism the countries of Europe have developed to maintain our independence while resolving conflicts peacefully.

Paul Bonny tells us that he is not turning his back on Europe or its peoples, just the EU (August 15). But that claim does not stand up to scrutiny as he wishes us to leave the mechanisms that the European states have built up for international co-operation, such as freedom of movement and the various programmes that support it like Erasmus for students and apprentices.

The EU’s political goals were clear from the outset. The EU does not run referenda, nation states do. So the EU does not rerun them.

The draft treaties were changed to reflect Irish and Dutch concerns. So their later votes were about different questions just as a Brexit referendum in 2020 would ask a different question from 2016.

The deal that leavers want would require the EU to change its nature and abandon one of its members in favour of an ex-member. No matter how much Boris Johnson promised that we would have our cake and eat it such a deal was never going to be available.

Individual leave voters may well have been clear about what they wanted. But there was no single leave plan in 2016. Different campaigners said different things.

The customs union was hardly mentioned. The Treasury’s and other economic analyses included options in and out of the single market. If it had been true that there was a single leave plan there would not now be disagreement among the Brexiters.

Leaving with no deal, for example not paying our debts, was no part of the 2016 story. Even Michael Gove says that. The chronology alone shows that Theresa May’s 2017 inept negotiating tactic cannot be evidence that no-deal as an ideal was promoted before the 2016 referendum.

It is a sign of the radicalisation of the Brexit project that some people now wish not just to leave the European club but to throw a brick through the clubhouse window as we go. That radicalisation has a long way yet to run. That is what should really worry us.

Tottenham Street, W1


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