In the Brexiteers’ version of La La Land, the EU had until last week been a rule-taker for negotiating purposes: a place onto which the UK could project its demands for a free lunch and where economic calculus — “they sell more to us than we do to them” — or geopolitical fear would prevail.
However, in reality, in proportional terms, EU exports to us account for just three per cent of its GDP versus 13 per cent v ice-versa and, as Lord Wood tweeted recently, it is a conceit to think Britain co-operating on security with the rest of Europe is our gift to them rather than in our own profound interest.
The European Council road map for the Article 50 talks is another dent in this provincialism, which we knew it would be. Not only is it clear that the EU will try to protect itself and its constituent members, as the guideline giving Spain an effective veto over any trade deal applying to Gibraltar shows, there is also scope for agenda-shaping and opportunistic power grabs.
Pro-Brexit newspapers will froth with engineered resentment, having helped put us here in the first place. But as Britain is about to find out, more countries think along the same lines as the EU than may now be comfortable.
The art of negotiating is about setting out your position and then making a series of reciprocal concessions until you reach a compromise that is acceptable to both parties. The way to lose is to put all your concessions on the table upfront without gaining serial reciprocity.
That is why I do not understand why, on the one hand, the Brexit negotiating team can be accused of using EU citizens residing in the UK as “bargaining chips”, and the mention of defence commitments is decried as “blackmail” when at the same time the EU tells us if we make enough progress and don’t behave like naughty children it just might allow us to negotiate new trade deals in parallel with the plan to withdraw.
The EU is also threatening that any withdrawal deal will not include one of our own overseas territories, Gibraltar, unless that is agreed by another country, Spain, which has no legal jurisdiction over the territory. What is the word for this sort of idiotic rhetoric?
So the former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard has suggested rather flippantly that Theresa May might be prepared to “do a Thatcher/Falklands” and go to war with Spain over Gibraltar.
May, I am sure, is aware that Spain is a member of Nato, which is, essentially, a mutual non-aggression pact.
Hospital reprieve is not permanent
The decision to delay plans to close Charing Cross Hospital until 2021 is good news and a tribute to all those who campaigned to keep it open [“‘Misleading’ claim of hospital closure sparks bitter row”, March 31]. However, the threat hasn’t gone away.
Shutting down Charing Cross has been planned since 2013 and is still part of Imperial NHS Trust’s clinical strategy. Indeed, the trust’s long-term sustainability and transformation plan depends on its closure.
The proposal to build a unit dedicated to the needs of elderly people on the old Charing Cross site would provide a valuable clinical service. But it would be no substitute for the 300-plus beds and all the acute services that will disappear if the hospital goes.
It is also good news that there has been £2.5 million investment in Charing Cross’s emergency services and theatres, and it would be nonsensical if this was wasted by removing acute services from the site.
We will treat assurances that adequate community provision will be in place before further closures occur with scepticism, given that the same was said before A&E centres at Hammersmith and Central Middlesex were closed and it didn’t happen.
Anne Drinkell, Save Our Hospitals
Croydon assault was unforgivable
It was with tremendous shock, sadness and anger that I read about the young Kurdish Iranian man who suffered horrendous injuries after he was attacked at a bus stop in Croydon on Friday [“Find them”, April 3]. Those who carried out this brutal assault do not deserve to be walking free.
Refugees and foreign nationals will always be welcome in Croydon and the reaction to this incident only reinforces that sentiment. There is no place in our society for this kind of savagery and my thoughts are with the teenager and his family.
Steve O’Connell, London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton (Con)
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Pollution tips for asthma sufferers
I wish to respond to your article [“Toxic air warnings ‘must include reminder for children to use inhalers’”, March 28] which may have caused concern for some readers.
Air pollution is a risk for everyone with asthma but especially children and young adults because they breathe faster and their lungs are still developing. It is a trigger that is hard to avoid but there are some simple steps that can help protect everyone with asthma.
The most important thing is to ensure that everyone with the condition uses their preventer inhaler as prescribed each day — this reduces the inflammation that makes airways more sensitive to triggers including pollution. By reducing swelling and sensitivity, the airways are less likely to react and cause worsening asthma symptoms on high-pollution days.
On the most polluted days in London we recommend that to minimise the risk of an attack, people with asthma should keep their reliever inhaler at hand to quickly deal with any symptoms.
Dr Andy Whittamore, clinical lead and in-house GP, Asthma UK
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Greyhound racing should be revived
With the closure of Wimbledon Stadium, I wonder what the Mayor is proposing to do to bring greyhound racing and speedway back to the capital. Romford is now the only greyhound track left in London. It is a mistake to assume that London sports fans are only interested in football.
The Greyhound Racing Association should take its fair share of the blame for the closure as it consistently failed to ensure that Wimbledon Stadium was properly maintained — especially when you consider that for more than 30 years it hosted the Greyhound Derby.
I am keen to hear what Sadiq Khan’s plans are, and hope the situation will be rectified, but I’m not holding my breath.
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