LETTERS: The European Union is a great thing to be part of

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Your correspondent Kirk Kus (August 17) makes a case for the UK standing alone outside the European Union, but omits a number of important facts. It may be possible for the UK to leave and stand alone, but is it really desirable in a globalised and increasingly unstable world?

Of course we could negotiate a similar trading arrangement to that of Norway and Switzerland, but what Mr Kus failed to mention was that those two countries have to obey the rules, without having any say in what they are, and also pay in a similar sum per head of population to enjoy the benefits of free trade within the EU.

The UK would then be outside the trading agreements the EU has with many countries across the world, and would have to start again negotiating new ones, which would not necessarily be more advantageous.

One of the advantages for many poorer Commonwealth countries when the UK joined the then Common Market, was that the UK was able to negotiate access to a much bigger market for goods like bananas from the West Indies.

The “regulations and bureaucracy” Mr Kus complains about are actually there to ensure that the Single Market works properly with everyone complying with the same standards on quality, health and safety, workers’ rights, environmental protection, consumer protection, proper food-labelling, water quality etc.

Many of our industries are very closely integrated with companies in other EU countries, particularly aerospace and the automobile industry, supplying parts to each other. Our leaving could put these jobs at risk. Companies like Nissan have invested in the UK to have access to the wider EU market, and might well consider relocating to other EU countries, again costing many British jobs.

I can remember how difficult travel to mainland Europe was 50 years ago, with custom controls at every border, and long waits for passport control. Now we can travel right across our continent with minimum controls – apart from at the UK border! Young people can study at Universities across the EU with grants under the Erasmus Programme.

UK citizens like my son and nephew can move to another EU country for work when the industries in which they were working closed down.

There are several million Brits, both working and retired, like one of my cousins, now living with minimal problems in another EU country.

Many of our universities, research centres and colleges depend on EU grants for delivering important research and training; the Advanced Manufacturing Park between Sheffield and Rotherham is a shining example.

During the ’80s and early ’90s when South Yorkshire was suffering the effects of the loss of jobs in steel, mining and engineering, the only extra resources coming into our area were from the EU, funding education and infrastructure such as the new roads and factories in the Dearne Valley.

The big improvements in Sheffield City Centre, such as the Peace Gardens, the Millennium Gallery, the Winter Garden, the modernisation of our wonderful theatres, were all underpinned by European money.

South Yorkshire has been a net recipient of such money, which is targeted where it is most needed across the EU.

Does the UK really want to destabilise our continent which, after two devastating world wars, has now enjoyed 70 years of peace, with European countries coming together to work together for the good of the whole?

The EU facilitated the emergence of Greece, Spain and Portugal from right-wing dictatorships, and the countries of East Europe from communist dictatorships after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

In the present world, it makes no sense to say that we should just be “running our own affairs in our own interest”.

What IS in our interest is to work constructively with our neighbours, as a major voice in Europe, for the greater good of not just Europe, but for the world.

Veronica Hardstaff

Northfield Court, S10