EU countries don't 'oppose' Britain – they are just looking after themselves

Letters
European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker is greeted by British Prime Minister Theresa May outside 10 Downing Street: Getty Images

Theresa May’s language – “27 other European countries line up to oppose us” – is unhelpful and misleading. We were participating members of a community whose fellow members valued our contribution and whose own interests will be damaged by our departure. Their strategy now is to ensure that they and the union will not suffer too much economic, social, political and financial harm by our leaving.

Their disappointment at seeing us go has many levels, not least an emotional one. In the negotiations to come their main purpose will be self-protection, damage limitation: they are not, as the Prime Minister’s choice of words implies, motivated by aggression and revenge. Rarely has Horatio’s “countenance more in sorrow than in anger” been more apt in modern politics.

Richard Hanson-James
Caversham

Our EU partners will meet this weekend to set out and agree their “red lines”, or in other words what they will give us. They have an overwhelmingly strong position since we actually walked away from the table at which we might have realistically negotiated last June.

When will any politician admit that the EU ability to simply not negotiate on whatever matters they wish, is not a negotiation? And when will the Government or opposition open up on what our aims are in this situation?

It’s clear they all privately understand that this is a powder keg of potential embarrassment that none of them want to open up, as it will demonstrate that “the will of the people” may have been slightly flawed. Worse it makes them all look incompetent and dishonest. The real “coalition of chaos” is all of our politician’s lack of the guts to deal with this honestly and openly.

I look forward to a gradual revealing of this reality. It should bring shame on them all.

It might also actually reunite the country when we realise what a pickle we have placed ourselves in.

John Sinclair
​Pocklington

Sturgeon’s priorities

With 700 teaching vacancies across Scotland that we are told could take three years to fill, it seems the priority that the First Minister claims to be putting to education is failing badly. Attainment gap issues in education can hardly be properly addressed if the teachers are not in place. Large numbers of trained teachers cannot be found overnight of course, but education has been the Scottish government’s responsibility for 10 years now.

Equally troubling shortages are occurring in healthcare with doctors, nursing and care staff shortages causing difficulties in some parts of Scotland. The Scottish National Party has some big issues to deal with. How long before they decide that only by putting other obsessions to one side can they hope to make progress?

Keith Howell
West Linton

Character education

As headteacher of a community primary school in Kent, I am continually dismayed at the Government’s over-emphasis on academic progress and attainment. The way to create socially intelligent and resilient young people who are fully prepared for the world of work is to make character education the key focus and to integrate it seamlessly into everything that a child experiences at school.

Those who think that character education will dilute impact on academic standards are sadly mistaken; it will, in fact, enhance them through the development of determined, curious and self-controlled individuals.

David Pyle
Kent

‘Rape clause’ support

In Scotland, the Scottish Conservative Leader, Ruth Davidson, is a firm supporter of the “rape clause”. Irony abounds. It seems for “rape clause Ruthie” (as she is now locally known) caring, compassionate Conservatism is just a sound bite.

Iona Easton
Glasgow

Language lessons

Can politicians and journalists please stop using the terms “customs union” and “single market” interchangeably as if they were the same thing? They aren’t. A customs union is where all the countries in the union abolish any customs tariffs between them and agree a common tariff for goods from third countries outside the union. The original Treaty of Rome bases the European Economic Community on a customs union – but that is only a starting point, a means to an end. The EU became a customs union in 1968 but the single market wasn’t completed until 1993.

A single market goes further. The core of the single market is the free movement of the means of production: goods, services, labour and capital.

In other words it needs a legal regime which ensures that all barriers to trade between the member states are removed e.g. no quotas on goods or regulations which make it difficult for one member state to market their goods in another. The classic example of this is the German Beer purity law which meant that beer brewed in other member states couldn’t be sold in Germany as beer because it didn’t comply with the law.

So please can we be clear. A customs union deals only with customs tariffs, a single market however, tries to remove all internal barriers to trade between its member states.

Dr Hazel Dawe
Oxford

Poll politics

I cannot understand why so much attention is paid to the polls during an election. Should a pollster ever interview me I would put on my “mind-your-own-business” hat and be very economical with the truth.

Gillian Cook
Leicestershire

Every time I hear Theresa May saying “make me strong” I think, “give me strength”.

John Smith
Beighton

Animal cruelty

The giant rabbit who died during a long-haul flight was failed first by the breeder – who churns out and sells baby bunnies when animal shelters and rescue groups are full of homeless rabbits – and then by United Airlines, which shipped him off in a cargo hold like an old suitcase. This rabbit's death is not unique – more than 300 animals have died in cargo holds since 2005, and many more have been injured or lost.

Jennifer White
London N1

Amazon’s offering

I find it incomprehensible that you refer to Amazon “creating 1,200 new UK jobs”. Amazon will certainly be offering jobs in its new establishment in Warrington, but by no stretch of the imagination will it be creating jobs, as every job in Amazon, or it's like, results in many more jobs being lost in more traditional forms of employment.

In addition, the companies who currently provide the type of job that will be lost will be companies that pay their fair share of tax – something that it is acknowledged that Amazon do not. By all means report such news, but I feel the use of the word “creation” in this context is inappropriate.

Grant Serpell
Maidenhead

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