THE letter from Mr Alec Wall (Letters, November 26) misses the point about this country’s relationship with the European Union. It is not primarily about money. It is about our relationship with those people to whom we have close ties, not only political, but also historical and spiritual. Mr Wall’s ‘missing £4.5 billion’ is a very small part of the substantial sums spent by the EU on rebuilding the economies of east Europe shattered by 50 years of communist hegemony.
It is a very small percentage of the money spent on this major contribution to European security since 1989. Closer to home, the UK’s annual net EU contribution – after Brussels payments to UK farmers, and other beneficiaries of EU policies, of around £10 billion is 0.3 per cent of UK GDP. Contributions to the common funds of the other 27 nations of the Union are similarly small.
The problems of the steel industry are rooted in the sort of free trading principles which the anti-EU lobby applauds: free access to the European steel market by a lower cost producer – namely China. Control of the internet, like regulation of climate change, is an area where only internationally agreed policies can be effective.
The Eurosceptic argument on trade oversimplifies the situation. Trade with Europe has not declined; rather, UK exports to the developing economies have increased faster. While overall, trade with non EU countries may be marginally greater than with the EU, the most lucrative markets for agricultural and food exports – of high importance to farmers and food companies in the Marches – is more than 60 per cent with Europe. Outside the EU, continuation of this trade would be hammered by high tariffs and technical import barriers.
Leaving aside trade, this country needs its close relationship with the other European countries for more deep-rooted and important reasons. In the 42 years since accession to the EEC, universities, scientific institutions and students have developed and benefited from transnational collaboration and EU funded schemes which transcend the economic advantages of European union.
Lower Broad Street