Sir: I agree with Fraser Nelson’s article ‘Brexit blunders’ (21 April). I am a Leaver, but immigration did not figure in my decision in the referendum. On the contrary, I recall many years ago hearing that some 240 languages were spoken in London and the UK, and for some reason it made me immensely proud.
If Theresa May does not understand that immigration is not the issue, then we have the wrong leader. My suspicions in this regard are further strengthened by her stated but continually thwarted ambitions to have a special relationship with the EU bloc. Her attempts are relentlessly rebuffed and, because of the EU’s fear of ‘letting us off lightly’, I begin to fear that they always will be. Irish borders are the latest stumbling block, but even if that is resolved, another obstacle will be raised.
It is time for two new approaches, both of which our nation would almost naturally adopt with goodwill. First, take the moral high ground and commute citizens’ rights to all EU nationals resident in the country, regardless of any reciprocal rights from the EU for our own citizens in their countries.
Secondly, take a new tough approach to negotiations with the EU, making it clear that a hard Brexit may be our preferred option. Businesses in the UK can then plan accordingly and since they, not the government, will lead us into the future, it is essential that they do so as soon as possible.
Sir: Your castigation of Theresa May’s immigration policies, past and present, is entirely justified. But your rose-tinted view of the part immigration played in the EU referendum is not. It is not true that ‘every Brexit campaigner … wanted to grant immediate and unconditional guarantees’ that EU nationals in the UK would not be adversely affected by Brexit. Many of the Leave supporters I met during the campaign showed their overt xenophobia simply by shouting ‘Get ’em out’. What you call ‘the true motives of Brexit supporters’ were all too clear. They did not want EU nationals to be replaced by more immigrants from outside the EU, either. And their feelings were inflamed by the likes of Michael Gove and Penny Mordaunt associating themselves with the Leave campaign’s deliberately alarmist — and inaccurate — vision of millions of Turks invading the UK.
A low interest problem
Sir: Your leading article (‘Home truths’, 21 April) discusses a number of proposed cures for the housing problem in this country. Mention is made of constructing parallel housing markets for foreigners and residents, and extending the tenures of those who rent. Elsewhere, the house-building lobby uses every opportunity it can to demand the concreting over of any open space that still exists. Nowhere in government, it seems, is anyone focusing on the root cause of the housing market bubbles: the hyper-lax monetary policy which the Bank of England has been running for way too long. The extremely low level of interest rates over the past decade has not only stoked the surge in house prices, but it is also responsible for the low level of savings generally, the consequent over-reliance on consumer spending for growth, the huge trade and current account imbalances, and the damage done to pension provisions. Until all this is addressed, a solution to the housing crisis will remain out of reach.
Sir: Rod Liddle seems to think Welsh largely devoid of vowels (‘Joking about vowels is a hate crime now’, 21 April). The intrepid walker George Borrow, standing on top of Snowdon (Eryri), quotes two stanzas consisting entirely of vowels except for the consonant ‘r’ (‘w’ being a vowel in Welsh), beginning
Oer yw’r Eira ar Eryri, — o’ryw
Ar awyr i rewi;
Oer yw’r ia ar riw ’r ri,
A’r Eira oer yw ’Ryri.
(Wild Wales, 1862, Ch. 29).
Dr Ann Soutter
Sir: Rod Liddle should not be surprised at the infantile responses following his article with its references to the Welsh language. Nationalism can be divisive, aggressive, bigoted and small-minded — certainly in its Scots and Welsh varieties. Worse than that, its proponents are frequently humourless as well. Having the capacity to laugh at yourself is a marker of strength of character, as well as strength of argument. It is also a great way of keeping a sense of proportion. Fortunately, Rod’s wit and wisdom is there to make sure we don’t lose that.
Support schools in Africa
Sir: I was pleased to read the contributions from Aidan Hartley (‘Let kids learn’, 21 April) and James Tooley (‘We’re not talking Eton’). My own experience of state schools in a wide variety of developing countries confirms the abysmal failure of many of these institutions for a variety of reasons — staff absenteeism and peculation of funds being the most common. Most parents would sacrifice 10 per cent of their income to find places for their children in the plethora of church or mission schools. I am encouraged to see secular and low-cost options being provided by such organisations as Bridge International Academies, though I’m hardly surprised that this has provoked the intolerant wrath of Action Aid, the NUT et al.
I sincerely hope that backers of Bridge such as Bill Gates and our own Department for International Development are not cowed into withdrawing their support in the face of this outrageous attempt to curtail the chances of better education for the poor children of the world.