The Spectator

Letters | 30 June 2016

Also in Spectator Letters: Scotland post-Brexit; EU reforms; voters’ inconsistency; coalition government; and more on the referendum

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A rational vote

Sir: There has been a lot of bile poured out about those who voted Leave by the Remainers. Their intelligence, their racial tolerance and their general moral standing has been called into question. I was a Remain voter, but live in an area that was 69 per cent Leave, and work with people who were strongly anti-remaining.

To take one example, being anti-free migration is being referred to as racism. For many people migration is not anything to do with race or even nationality: 1,000 people from the next town would create the same degree of concern as 1,000 Poles. When jobs, houses, school places and so on are limited, it is the amount of competition faced that creates the problem, not where the competition comes from.

For a man or woman living in Hull or Stoke or Burnley with ten new jobs a week being created and ten people a week — local people — seeking jobs, then seeing ten or 15 migrants moving in each week is frightening. If those migrants came from Leeds or Milton Keynes, it would not reduce the fear. Economics, not race or nationality, is the problem.

It is many years since I received my economics degree, but the law of supply and demand still applies. People in towns with high unemployment know that with more people chasing each job, the wage offered can be lower. The minimum wage in many places has become the usual wage. Skill premiums have disappeared as European skilled workers take the job at minimum wage that 20 years ago would have attracted a 10 or 20 per cent top up. Would zero-hour contracts exist if employers had more jobs than there were applicants?

There has been much flaunting of the economic benefits of migration. But for many people, the reality has been lower wages, longer hours and less hope for the future. As a reasonably comfortable older person with a Polish cleaner I voted Remain. For anyone without my personal advantages, I think Leave might have been the only sensible choice.

David Thomas

Stoke on Trent

Our next two referendums

Sir: While we’re in this turmoil anyway, let’s go for broke and re-run the Scottish and Northern Irish referendums so that we can have a settled basis for our future. If Scotland opts for independence this time, so be it. In Northern Ireland’s case, unifying with the Irish Republic would be the simplest way to retain EU membership. After all, the aim of the EU is progressive political integration and so, had we stayed in, there would eventually have been no international border between north and south. I see no reason why this should have an adverse effect on practical relationships within the British Isles. Ireland and the UK have long had reciprocal rights such as residency, predating EU membership. Such arrangements would simply extend to Scotland. As for our revised name, after Scotland’s departure, I suggest just ‘Britain’.

Ken Stevens

Sonning Common, Oxfordshire

The deals we used to have

Sir: I was surprised to learn from last week’s leading article (‘Can you forgive him?’, 25 June) that the EU has never been ‘open to reform’. Reforms have in fact been made, it’s just that Brussels has been terrible at communicating them.

Britain has four ‘opt-outs’ in big areas of European policy: from the Schengen Area to the Charter of Fundamental Rights (only three other countries have opt-outs, and none as many as the UK). In addition, Thatcher secured the hefty budget rebate in 1985, worth about 30 per cent of our yearly contribution. That’s before considering Cameron’s own settlement, which would have further extended the UK’s unique and flexible arrangement.

The commonly held view of Brussels as a set of institutions fixed in rigor mortis doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The failure to combat that message, during the referendum campaign and in the decades since 1973 has contributed hugely to the European project’s downfall in Britain.

Sam Douglas-Bate

London SW11

Buck up, Brexiteers!

Sir: The real villains of the referendum are surely not the scaremongering Remain side nor the lily-livered Leave campaign but those voters who have changed their minds since Friday morning. Now is not the time for spineless inconsistency. The nation needs to see confidence from those people who voted for Brexit because, if they are not confident, how can you expect panic to subside?

Diana Stewart-Brown

London W14

Hit by a blunt instrument

Sir: So now Britain has the worst of all worlds — divided political parties, financial hiatus, possible break-up of the UK, and no reliable future outlook. The only lesson learned is that a referendum is a blunt instrument, and that parliamentary democracy is after all the mature way to resolve such things. Had wiser counsels prevailed, and had the EU recognised its own perils, the discussion now would be about a reformed club, with advantage accruing to all.

If all the counters were reset, this is surely how matters would proceed. What is needed now is a period for reflection and exploration by all parties, rather than a rush to the exit.

Ian Harris

Arzier, Switzerland

Commonwealth links

Sir: As we approach the centenary of the battle of the Somme, we should not forget that many soldiers from the Commonwealth and the former British Empire fought and died alongside ours in the two world wars. We ought to feel remorse at the shabby way we repaid our debt of gratitude for their sacrifice when we abandoned Commonwealth trade preference as part of the price for joining the misnamed European Common Market in 1973. As we now disentangle ourselves from the EU, we should make amends by strengthening our trade links with the Commonwealth. They are our best friends.

Frank Tomlin

Billericay, Essex

We need a coalition

Sir: The response of the political class to the will of the people is woeful. This is the sort of emergency which demands the formation of a coalition government by those who campaigned for Brexit, led by Gove and Johnson. This will steady the markets and allow the will of the people to be negotiated. Once we have left the EU there will be plenty of time for the parties to pull themselves together, and only then should a general election be called.

Dr Lesley Kay

London NW1

Oh wise young people

Sir: It’s strange that, in some cultures, older people are respected for having experience and wisdom but in ours, apparently, the young have all the answers.

Andrew Peters

Livingston, Edinburgh

The canny choice

Sir: Last week, Alex O’Brien wrote that at the next referendum on independence Scotland would vote to leave the UK to ensure they remained in the EU (Letters, 25 June). I beg to differ. When faced, during the campaign, with the drop in their oil revenue, the fact that on applying for EU membership they would need to adopt the euro and that their territorial waters would remain a European resource — reducing further their fishing fleet — I cannot see any canny Scot voting to leave the UK.

Niall Warry

Shepton Mallet, Somerset

Asquith’s Home Rule

Sir: A comprehensive devolution scheme — home rule all round — was not lost when war broke out in 1914, as Andrew Marr suggests (Diary, 18 June). Having floated the idea, Asquith got Winston Churchill, then Liberal home secretary, to examine the practicalities. He told the cabinet that a single English parliament was ‘absolutely impossible’ and proposed seven regional legislatures for the UK’s largest country. No further work was done and the Liberals’ third Home Rule, like its predecessors, was confined to Ireland. Those who hoped for more had to be content with Asquith’s vague and insincere reference in debate to the possibility of a ‘larger and more comprehensive policy’ in due course. There was no first step towards a set of looser ties which would have made it easier for the UK’s component parts to make separate arrangements after Brexit.

Alistair Lexden

House of Lords, London SW1

Cuckoo migration

Sir: Like everyone who belittles Switzerland, Jenny FitzGerald associates it with the cuckoo clock (Letters, 25 June). The cuckoo clock is a German invention — their typical appearance is redolent of the Black Forest region, even if a few have been made more recently by the Swiss.

Geoffrey Sampson

Uckfield, Sussex

In praise of pet passports

Sir: I always enjoy reading Melissa Kite’s column and continue to be amused at her clever combination of tying the EU referendum to the travails of her pet passport saga (Real life, 18 June). However, she may not be aware that the need for treatment for ticks is very much for her dog’s health, yet not part of the pet passport regulations. The tick-borne disease Babesia is a potential killer, while the pet passport is there to protect humans from rabies and the tapeworm.

I shall be fascinated to learn how she found our French veterinary colleagues, what she thinks about the charges for filling out the pet passport in France, and the workings of the pet passport control.

Michael Nathan

Tarrant Hinton, Dorset

The benefits of black tie

Sir: Harry Mount is wrong to condemn black tie so absolutely (Notes on, 25 June). One of the advantages is that as one’s waist expands beyond the expectation of one’s tailor, larger trousers can be substituted without arousing suspicion. Also, a double-breasted outfit can be worn open and look elegant, if after a good supper it becomes impossible to keep it buttoned. Lastly, heavy barathea is an excellent choice to keep one warm during chilly English opera festivals, while the ladies shiver under the complimentary blankets.

David Whitby

Lechlade, Glos

A neglected author

Sir: I see that Andrew Marr is making a programme about the genres Britain has given the world (Diary, 18 June). He should include the neglected Anthony Price, who brought together the spy and detective genres with more than a dash of history too. I don’t know why he never got more screen adaptations.

Bridget Rosewell

Llandogo, Monmouth

Innocent by law

Sir: In his article about Cliff Richard, Matthew Parris says: ‘Nor can (the police) start describing anyone they don’t charge as “innocent” because they cannot know that’ (‘Was there any way not to traduce Cliff Richard?’, 25 June). This overlooks the fact that according to the law, they are innocent. Nobody is guilty until a court has decided they are, and what the police know or think doesn’t determine someone’s guilt.

George Tedbury

Calne, Wiltshire