‘The truth is that France’s Charles de Gaulle vetoed Britain’s application to join in 1963 and again in 1967. Perhaps if we had been allowed to join at the get-go things would have been very different now,’ writes Linda Hawes. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters
“Brussels has no power over most salient issues”, “Most immigration comes from outside the EU, where policy is made by the UK alone”, “Pollution, terrorism and organised crime … do not stop at national borders” (The new EU era will be forged by its people, Opinion, 25 March). Just three quotes from Jean-Claude Juncker that raise the question of why the remain campaign didn’t seek some advice from him before the referendum. If they had, we might not be in the mess we’re in now.
• Mr Juncker is wrong on two counts. First, he states that the EU has few powers in respect of UK healthcare. However, since April 2016, EU procurement rules require that all NHS contracts worth more than £750,000 have to go out to tender. A core principle of these rules is furtherance of open competition with the inevitable effect of boosting NHS privatisation. No matter that the in-house service is performing well, the cash-strapped clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have to indulge in expensive and time-consuming tendering exercises which may then be subject to legal challenge.
Second, he writes of the EU being democratic, but it is profoundly undemocratic that neither the European parliament nor the council of ministers can initiate legislation. Only the unelected commission can do this and its president, Jean-Claude Juncker, defines its direction of policy.
• The victors always write the history, so we have been told the common market was created to keep the peace in postwar Europe, not to stop communism (Jean-Claude Juncker and Natalie Nougayrède, 25 March).
In 1948 the US president, Harry Truman, sent General George Marshall on a fact-finding mission to Europe. He reported back that European communism was growing, not because of Russia but because of poverty. In West Germany the most stable currency was American cigarettes. The solution was Marshall Aid and West Germany received billions of dollars to kickstart the West German economic miracle. In 1951, a treaty was signed to create the European Coal and Steel Community, and in 1953 the London Debt Conference wrote off much German debt, including reparations from the first world war. It’s ironic that Greece was one of the countries that wrote off German debt.
Over a period of 10 years billions of dollars had preserved western Europe from communism and the history of the origins of the common market/EU had been rewritten.
Green candidate for Walthamstow 2015
• As a German political scientist who has worked in higher education in Britain for 50 years, I wish to underline the accuracy of Lord Heseltine’s assessment of Germany’s position in Europe (Michael Heseltine: Germany will ‘win the peace’ because of Brexit, theguardian.com, 24 March). Britain’s withdrawal from the EU will leave Germany as the most powerful nation in Europe – its economy was the strongest even before unification.
It displays remarkable historical ignorance to ignore the fact that the purpose of European integration was indeed in part the harnessing of Germany’s potential strengths to Europe as a whole. This applied to the European Coal and Steel Community as well as later to the European Economic Community of 1957. The introduction of the Euro in the 1990s occurred on the insistence of France’s President Mitterrand, against the will of the German people, as the precondition for France’s agreement to German unification.
As the new unified Germany became the largest and most prosperous nation in Europe its continued integration into the European framework was even more essential, as was the counterbalance by the other big powers, France and in particular Britain. The important international role Britain played in Europe has never been properly acknowledged by British governments and its omission from the referendum campaign was one of the latter’s greatest weaknesses.
The Germans have always supported the European framework. Germany does not want to dominate Europe but will be pushed into it by Britain’s withdrawal. Whatever happened to Britain’s traditional approach to maintaining the “balance of power” in Europe?
• Lord Heseltine was not entirely wrong. There is a very real danger that Germany will control the EU in all but name. It is the dominant economy, and no one but the UK had the will and the might to stand up to Germany before.
Moreover, it is untrue that the UK had no influence in an unreformable EU. It is owing to the UK above all that the wine lakes and beef mountains of yesteryear have now disappeared, and some EU legislation was UK inspired.
So one interesting question that was not posed during the referendum was whether the EU needed the UK. However, judging by their responses to Lord Heseltine’s speech, it is not a point that would have interested the leavers.
Dr Marek Laskiewicz
• Compare and contrast the kind, sympathetic and friendly responses of our European neighbours, in the light of the Westminster attack, with the nasty, small-minded and petty response from Donald Trump Jr (Report, 24 March). Who and where are our friends? Peace and solidarity in Europe for all these years? Or aggression, racism and isolationism? I know whose friend I’d rather be. All friends have faults. You have to work on friendships. Not just hold hands and simper.
• Natalie Nougayrède (Opinion, 25 March) says that Britain “stayed aloof” from joining the European Common Market at its inception. The truth is that France’s Charles de Gaulle vetoed Britain’s application to join in 1963 and again in 1967. Perhaps if we had been allowed to join at the get-go things would have been very different now.
• Ian Jack (Opinion, 25 March) quotes Tom Nairn describing the UK as “an unreformable old power”. It was Sir Henry Tizard who summed it up by saying: “We are a great nation, but if we continue to behave like a great power we shall soon cease to be a great nation.” Isn’t trying to be a great power all over again just what we are trying to do by leaving the EU? The prime minister and the mayor of London, I gather, are only adding to this delusion by calling London the greatest city on earth. Isn’t it time our politicians caught up with reality?