It’s not just the last two or three Prime Minister’s who have failed in Energy, but every Government since Labour last came to power. Tony Blair had ambitious plans for Nuclear, but dropped them in the face of potential protest from the NIMBY and Eco campaigners. Every Government since has followed his lead, too timorous to challenge small groups of vocal campaigners. Clean coal (a technology where Britain led the World), Fracking (decades worth of cheap gas beneath Lancashire alone), new North Sea drilling licences, the same spineless response from Ministers. The consequences were predicted; huge rises in Energy costs, feeding through to the wider Economy, with a genuine possibility of power cuts, brown-outs and blackouts. Hence there is precisely zero likelihood that we will be sitting in the dark and cold “doing our bit” whilst we have money in the bank and there is energy to buy. We told you what would happen, you didn’t listen.

Doug Salmon, Birmingham

London is not a minority white city

I enjoyed Gerald Warner’s article entitled “The EU is an unreformable swamp of corruption and hypocrisy.” It’s the sort of serious and detailed Journalism one simply does not get in the general mainstream media. Thank you for it. 

However I am afraid one of your stats is completely incorrect (by miles) and that is: 

London (I have no idea about Birmingham) is NOT a minority white City at all. Not by a very long way. 
You ought to check both the 2011 and 2021 Census (the latter published within the last couple of weeks) – London is approx 60% white. 

Many thanks, 

Rob Drummond

NI protocol’s design is fundamentally flawed

The central problem with the Northern Ireland protocol is not that it is “too strict”, as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar now suggests, but that its design is fundamentally flawed.

It is perfectly reasonable for Mr Varadkar to insist that the European Single Market must be protected from non-compliant goods entering across the open land border, but in that case he should be demanding controls on that flow of goods from Northern Ireland into the Republic, not on the flow of goods from Great Britain into Northern Ireland.

From a legal standpoint it would only need UK trade secretary Kemi Badenoch to get an Order under Section 12 of the Export Control Act 2002 passed by both Houses of Parliament and she could soon establish a licensing system to control those goods crossing the border, and so give the Single Market protection not just from any unsuitable goods which might be brought into Northern Ireland from outside but also from any which might be produced within the province.

Rational UK export controls must be the sensible way forward, not tinkering with the present irrational EU import controls, and the EU Commission should be prepared to amend the text of the protocol accordingly.

Yours faithfully,

Dr D R Cooper, Maidenhead 

The EU is a nightmare whether you’re in it or not

Susana Lorena is quite right that the UK’s departure from the EU has set up new arrangements which even those in charge of them often do not understand, creating anomalies and extra costs. However what appears to be less well understood is that very similar problems occurred all the time with businesses – and particularly small businesses like Susana’s – while we were members of the EU.

I was publisher of a group of hair magazines in the 90s and first decade of the 20th century. Our company was the first to produce large numbers of ‘foreign language’ editions of exactly the same title and we were nominated as Periodical Publishers Association (PPA) Publisher of the Year for our pioneering success in this field. So, for example, the English-language Hair Now was Coiffure Style in France, Haarscharf in German and Haar & Haar in the Dutch language edition. The bureaucracies of the Single Market and in particular the ever changing interpretations by the bigger countries were staggering and came close to destroying titles – countries like France and Germany tried to alter the ground rules every few months to stop us competing with their own products.

The best example I can give is that at midnight in one year, we were all told by UK government and our publishers’ association that the old bilateral VAT agreements were scrapped and import duties would be harmonised ‘in the interests of a level playing field’. Three cheers?

So what did the French do? They dropped the VAT level indeed…but then at midnight on the same day quietly introduced a new law that required us to levy on sales, and pay over to the government, more than 20% VAT if the title was produced outside of France “to counter magazine pornography”. A brand new tax. So while our competitors could now come to the UK and not be subject to this chicanery, paying less tax, we could not compete on the same basis and had to pay way way more. Some level playing field. And that was 30 years after we joined the old EEC, now called the EU. All this chaos and gerrymandering continues to go on within the EU.

So revenons a nos moutons. Back to our hair magazine business. How to appeal? You have to laugh or cry at this dependent upon whose pocket is being brazenly lifted. We were told that you produce a year’s worth of mags (which you obviously have to charge readers 20% more for, or take a huge hit) and then apply to the TVA (VAT) for permission to operate normally, demonstrating that 700 hair styles for women every month is not pornographic. You cannot make this up. Suffice to say that each time we set up a meeting months in advance it was cancelled at the last minute…and the TVA office in regard to publishing only met a couple of times a year! In secret. Therefore we were forced to carry on operating in this absurd way…for seven years until a French company bought the title. Obviously cheaply because it was less profitable having that absurd new tax imposed because we were British. Within the EU.

Some level playing field.

What we suggested to the UK government and to our association 20 years ago was that the UK threaten immediately to withdraw us from the publishing arrangements, reverting to the bilateral agreements, until the issue was solved. Of course, supine and witless as ever, none of them had the courage or sense or genuine interest in British business to even raise the issue anywhere. Not interested. All they resorted to was the standard trite: “we must work with our partners to ensure the best possible outcome”. Which means doing nothing. Getting them to even meet with us to discuss the chaos was like dealing with the French VAT office. They were certainly not on our side.

The lesson really for us was that the EU is a nightmare and a minefield whether you are in it or not. It is not a sunny uplands for small business where barriers magically fade away. It is highly protectionist, and responds only to force. Unless you are in with the in crowd, you do not win, in or out. Simply witness the fantastic and deeply ingrained recent suitcases-full-of-cash corruption in the body, which beggars belief when looked into closely.

Damian Hockney

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