There is no ‘good’ Brexit
Sir: David Harper claims to know ‘what the population of the UK voted for’ in the EU referendum (Letters, 17 November), yet no definitive Brexit plan was ever offered by the Leavers. That is one reason why the government, having prematurely triggered Article 50 and recklessly established its ‘red lines’, has been floundering in an attempt at damage limitation. Harper’s disparagement of the single market ignores the fact that any gains from new trade agreements with non-EU countries would be greatly outweighed by the costs of leaving it and would require exports to these countries to grow at a rate that is unfeasible.
He refers to building ‘additional trade agreements’ on the WTO solution — apparently unaware of our post-Brexit loss of EU-negotiated trade agreements with 82 countries (including Japan and Canada), plus pending agreements with 22 countries and negotiations with a further 21 (such as China and India). There is no such thing as a good Brexit: even the government is not claiming that its ‘deal’ is better than our current membership.
On Britten’s War Requiem
Sir: I cannot help but feel outraged by Richard Bratby’s glib opinion that Britten’s War Requiem is the musical equivalent of Blackadder Goes Forth (Arts, 17 November). By spouting such crass nonsense Bratby insults the memory of a toweringly great composer. He insults the supreme baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who by his own account was ‘totally undone’ when rehearsing for the work’s premiere, as it brought to mind his fallen German comrades in the second world war. And he insults the countless listeners who have been moved beyond words by this masterpiece. His remarks, presumably meant to be edgy and sophisticated, reveal his cloth ears and stony heart. To cite just one example, the ineffable, poignantly beautiful setting of ‘One ever hangs where shelled roads part’ at the start of the Agnus Dei is not ‘simplistic’, Mr Bratby; not at all.
South Croydon, London
Antiochus and the EU
Sir: I greatly enjoy Peter Jones’s column, and his intriguing and informative parallels between the ancient world and current events. I doubt, however, whether the rule of King Antiochus, who looted Jerusalem and provoked the Maccabean wars, is a useful guide for considering Britain’s membership of the EU.
Revd Robin Burgess
Travels with my aunt
Sir: I was glad to see some praise for Mills & Boon in The Spectator (‘Why women fantasise about sheikhs’, 3 November). In addition to the points that Mary Wakefield made, I’d like to add that one of the unsung glories of the older romantic fiction is the research behind the seemingly simple stories. My aunt (who also happened to be a Catholic nun) was a prolific Mills & Boon writer who took me on her travels in my teenage years. Her insights into the places where she set her novels almost rival Hilary Mantel’s commitment to veracity.
Lucien de Guise
What made Jesus cross
Sir: In his meditation on the Sistine Chapel, James Delingpole has misremembered why Jesus got so cross in the Temple (‘I won’t be turning Catholic just yet’, 17 November). It was not about commerce as such, it was about the fraudulent and deceitful manipulation of rates of exchange.
Sir: Mark Bostridge pays me a great compliment in saying that my Fight to the Finish is ‘notable for its clarity, and anyone requiring a digestible narrative summary of the fighting… would be advised to start here’ (Books, 10 November). He is less happy with its ‘polemical conclusion’ which he considers ‘simplistic and banal’.
Yet it seemed right to end a narrative of the war with a reminder of how it began, not least because the question of Kriegsschuld (war guilt) was at the heart of the subsequent Paris peace conference. Bostridge says an ‘extraordinary weight of scholarship’ supports Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers, which ‘argued that no nation, not even Germany, really meant to wage war in 1914’. I criticised the Clark thesis because Germany chose to declare war on Russia, on France, and then to invade Belgium. No one made them.
Further, I wished to point to the weight of scholarship in the work of the Kaiser’s biographer, Professor John Röhl, whose contention is that the war came more by German design than by somnambulism.
Finally, my reference to Lady Thatcher, which Mark Bostridge thought banal, was in connection with her opinion that many British diplomats ‘go native’: at the recommendation of the British ambassador in Berlin, Professor Clark received a knighthood ‘for services to Anglo-German relations’. After chronicling the monstrous ineptitude of the allied high commands, I felt a little levity was permitted.
How to get rid of people
Sir: Rod Liddle’s piece on Yoko Ono (The Listener, 17 November) reminded me that back in the day, a friend of mine and I used to play unwanted guests Soft Machine’s Third or one of Frank Zappa’s albums (possibly Weasels Ripped My Flesh). These had the desired effect. The difference was, we did actually like the music.
St Albans, Herts