Mary Steele claims the Maastricht Treaty, signed in 1992, forced the newly elected Tory/Lib Dem government to impose austerity in 2010.
The Maastricht criteria were particularly aimed at countries wishing to join the euro, a sensible measure to ensure the countries involved were aligning the way they were running their economies.
The UK did not join the euro, so was not forced by the EU to impose the criteria on size of deficit or national debt. The austerity, deliberately chosen by the Coalition, choked off recovery and has not paid off the debt by 2015, or even 2018, as they claimed.
I am puzzled that a statement by the Prime Minister of Iceland, which is not a member of the EU, is quoted by Mary. The UK has been one of the three biggest EU members since 1973, and has been very influential in the past in influencing policy when it has chosen to do so.
The most disruptive wars in Europe – the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century, the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and the two World Wars of the first half of the 20th century – were all struggles for power between France and first Prussia, then Germany after unification, with many other countries, including Britain in three of the four, being drawn in.
What the EU has achieved is the coming together of those two nations so that war between them is unthinkable 70 years after the Second World War.
With respect to her quotation from Professor Bickerton, cooperation between the member states has indeed made our continent a safer, more peaceful place. Sadly the UK Brexit vote has created a huge diversion from dealing with all the problems on the borders of the EU – Syria, the increasingly autocratic rule of both Erdogan in Turkey and Putin in Russia, including the annexation of the Crimea.
Mary also quotes from a speech by Pope John Paul in 2014. He actually died in 2005!
However I totally accept that the EU must work to do better and be aware of the needs of ordinary people. This is precisely why South Yorkshire and other poorer areas of the UK have received billions of euros from the EU to help recovery from the loss of good jobs in mining, steel and engineering. As a teacher in the Eighties and early Nineties I organised trips to Germany and France which were affordable even for pupils from less well-off families, and I continue in retirement to campaign actively to oppose zero-hours contracts and cuts in public services.
Northfield Court, S10