Not for the first time, I'm afraid to say, an anti-European letter published in the Western Morning News reminded me of the famous Monty Python quote, "What did the Romans ever do for us?"
So, in response to the latest boring letter from RG Sandey (WMN, Jan 12) I should just like to say that the EU hasn't done much for this country, apart from of course: providing 57 per cent of our trade; structural funding to areas hit by industrial decline; lead-free petrol; cleaner air, clean beaches and rivers; restrictions on landfill dumping; a recycling culture; cheaper mobile charges; a ban on growth hormones and other harmful food additives; cheaper air travel; no paperwork or customs for exports throughout the single market; improved consumer protection and food labelling; better product safety; single market competition bringing quality improvements and better industrial performance; break-up of monopolies; Europe-wide patent and copyright protection; the right not to work longer than a 48-hour week without overtime; funded opportunities for young people to undertake placements abroad; price transparency and removal of commission on currency exchanges across the eurozone; freedom to travel, live and work across Europe; strongest wildlife protection in the world; access to European health services; labour protection and enhanced social welfare; smoke-free workplaces; equal pay legislation and holiday entitlement; improved animal welfare in food production; EU-funded research and industrial collaboration; EU representation in international forums; EEA negotiation at the World Trade Organisation; counter-terrorism intelligence; EU diplomatic efforts to uphold the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; cross-border policing to combat human trafficking, arms and drug smuggling; European civil and military co-operation in post-conflict zones in Europe and Africa; European arrest warrants; support for democracy and human rights across Europe and beyond; investment across Europe contributing to better living standards and educational, social and cultural capital.
All of this is nothing compared with its greatest achievements. The EU has for 60 years been the foundation of peace between European neighbours after centuries of bloodshed. It has assisted the extraordinary political, social and economic transformation of 13 former dictatorships, now EU members, since 1980.
Now the union faces major challenges brought on by neo-liberal economic globalisation, and worsened by its own system weaknesses. It is taking measures to overcome these. We in the UK should reflect on whether or not a contribution of £7 billion out of total government expenditure of £695 billion is good value. We must play a full part in enabling the union to be a force for good in a multipolar global future.