EUROPE: Numerous benefits

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I don’t know where name and address supplied (News Guardian, April 7) gets their information from, but it appears at odds with the reality of our political situation in Europe and relationship with the EU.

We are in a free trade area, the largest in the world – more than 50 per cent of our trade comes from Europe. No wonder many businesses are in favour of staying in. So should any worker in North Tyneside who has even a passing connection to Europe.

“We have paid billions” into the EU. I can’t deny that. Do you expect to be a member of a club and not pay anything? In return we get access to the free trade area, reduced paperwork, European-wide standards, no visas for travel to the continent, access to a fund to help deprived areas (spent locally), and many more benefits.

“We now have no borders to speak of”. We are not in Schengen, which means we still have full control of our borders. We have passport control at airports, ferry terminals and Eurostar. Any reduction in people manning those borders is the fault of the UK government. The camp at Calais is evidence that we do have borders.

“We have no voice or power in Europe”. So all the MEPs are figments? No, we are fully represented in Europe. It’s just that as a democracy, we don’t always get what we want. However, most of the time we do. It’s all part and parcel of sharing the world with other people. The alternative is isolationism. Good luck with that.

“The fishing ... heavy industry ... coal ... finished”. This is not the fault of the EU. EU fishing rules are to preserve fish stocks – without this sensible measure there would soon be no fishing at all. The decline of heavy industry and coal is not the fault of the EU, it is down to the way we’ve managed them and the support that successive UK governments have/haven’t given. Anyway, I thought it was all Thatcher’s fault?

What else has the EU done for us? Well, the small matter of a Europe-wide peace for 60 years, with all the countries, large and small, talking to each other and working with each other, and their citizens living and working across the continent (1.2 million Brits live abroad).

Or try worker rights (we have greater rights than US citizens, despite the desire of the government to remove them), such as equal pay, working hours, holiday entitlements, and more. Or a ban on growth hormones and other harmful additives in food; cross-border policing and counter-terrorism intelligence; consumer protection; a growing recycling culture, and lots more.

I’m voting to stay in. I like it in Europe. And I don’t need to stress myself about the word “great” to have pride in my country or the people who live in it.

David Hemsley

North Shields