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Letters: Rejoining the EU is at least a decade away

Brexit is clearly the failure it was always going to be, but repairing the damage and avoiding the mistakes of the past is a long-term task

A National Rejoin the EU March in central London. Photo: Krisztian Elek/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty

Your “We need to talk about Brexit” issue (TNE #393) was full of angst and anger about Labour refusals to mention rejoining. But applying to rejoin would not be a shoo-in! 

Expect tough requirements in all spheres including joining the Euro, with none of our former opt-outs on budgets and reticence on a more “political” union – even as more Orbáns may be involved.

Think of the thousands of hours EU officers had to spend in negotiations as we departed – there will be more, much more, of the same if we are serious about rejoining, any approach now can’t just be “exploratory”. 

Don’t open the can of worms yet!
Jill Lake

Re: Mick O’Hare’s “How do I vote Rejoin on July 4?” (TNE #393). The most honest answer to the Brexit question is that the prospect of a new application for Britain to join the EU is at least a decade away. 

As a pro-European since the 1960s, I know how difficult it was the first time around. Complying with European standards, which is the first part of the process, is the easy bit. By far the hardest bit is convincing all current EU members we are worthy of membership after all the bad blood generated by Brexit.

But we also need as pro-Europeans to inform the nation about the core principles that underpin the European Project. One reason our previous membership failed was that it became too transactional. “They need us more than we need them” encapsulated a very arrogant attitude by successive British governments. The European Project is about much more than crude economics.

The way forward is for pro-Europeans to push this debate to the fore on every possible occasion in the next parliament. Brexit is clearly the failure it was always going to be. However, repairing the damage and avoiding the mistakes of the past is a long-term task.

Any new membership will likely have no opt-outs. We also need to show that this time around we’re in for keeps.

This WILL be an issue at the election in 2028-29. We need to force it on to the agenda over the years in between.
David Rolfe

I agree with the drift of Matt d’Ancona’s “The long road back” (TNE #393). Labour has let the British people down by supporting Johnson’s fag-packet deal and remaining silent on the subject.

If Keir Starmer had, like Stephen Flynn, made the case week after week of how we would be better off in the EU, we may be in a position now to convince the EU and the wider British public that we want to become full members of the European Community.

As things stand, Brexit will destroy the Labour Party and, sadly, valuable time has been lost to build up the positive arguments for Rejoin.
Jonathan Fogell

Is TNE becoming English-centric? The answer to Mick O’Hare’s question, “How can I vote Rejoin on July 4?” (TNE #393) is by voting SNP in Scotland. Likewise, James Ball’s “Playing the manifesto game” in the same edition highlights the Greens (one Westminster MP), Lib Dems (11 MPs) and Reform UK (one MP) as well as Labour and the Tories. Of the SNP (43 Westminster MPs) there is no mention.
Rob Wells

Brexit is still a live political issue in Scotland, especially among young people. I would suggest that the quickest way for all the people of these islands to re-enter the EU would be to support Scottish independence as a means of encouraging other parts of the UK to follow suit. 

Apart from the Greens, no other London-based party seems ready to admit that Brexit was an economic, historical, and cultural disaster.
Richard Ross 
Edinburgh, Scotland

The “We need to talk about Brexit” issue has some great ideas about the steps we can take to move closer to the EU. But neither Matthew d’Ancona nor Alastair Campbell covered closer cultural ties, where an obvious win is for us to go #MoreMetric.

Pushing for #MoreMetric will be popular. It means economic benefits (for the NHS too) as it means scrapping the effort of dealing with two systems. It means better European alignment, and easier maths.
Julian Skidmore

Taking coals to Durham
Re: “From Orgreave to Brexit” (TNE #392). This goes back further than Orgreave though, to the era of Eden and Macmillan.

Wasn’t the glib comment of one of Macmillan’s advisers that “we can’t join the European coal and steel community because the Durham miners wouldn’t accept it?”
Em Jackson

Europe’s crucial choice
Re: Paul Mason’s “The price of a Russian victory” (TNE #393). Europe needs to quickly have a serious debate about the future. We have a choice – give in to Putin or adopt a defence posture that would inhibit any further Russian aggressions.

The former requires us to do nothing, but face the constant threat of nuclear war from Russia. The latter requires massive investment in defence and the mobilisation of human and physical resources.
Rob Davies

The subplot thickens
I won’t dispute Charlie Connelly’s thesis (“Vote for election fiction”TNE #393) that elections are rarely the subject of a novel, but they are plot hooks or subplots within a book, more frequently than the article suggests.

I immediately thought of Middlemarch, in which an election features prominently, and an election comes into the story arc of a more recent example, Alan Hollinghurst’s Line of Beauty, to my mind one of the best political novels ever written. 

Other readers will no doubt have fine fiction examples that sprang immediately to mind.
Sue Lloyd 

Righting a wrong
Re: “Songs of love and torment” (TNE #393). Thanks for the excellent tribute to Françoise Hardy. Just one correction though. All Over the World wasn’t an English version of Tous les garçons et les filles, it was a literal translation of her song Dans le monde entier, from the album Mon amie la rose.  

Hardy collaborated with French film-maker François Ozon six years ago to produce her own extremely moving epitaph, a song called Le Large. It can be found on YouTube, and you can select English subtitles if required.
Richard Barnett

Breaking the code
I was surprised to see Will Self, in TNE #393, say that in France, unlike England, “the only time there’s been any law against homosexual relations between consenting males was briefly under the Code Napoleon during the Consulate.”

Before the French revolution there was legislation against sodomy, consensual or not, and the penalty for both partners was death, which is one of the reasons De Sade supported the revolution. The revolution’s penal code in 1791 effectively decriminalised homosexuality exercised in private. 

As far as I can see the Code Napoleon had a benevolent effect regarding homosexuality in France and the countries whose legal systems were influenced by France.
Rosi Edwards

Beatles on a budget
I really liked “Birth of the Beatles”, Jason Solomons’ piece on 1994’s Backbeat (TNE #393). I saw the film as an impressionable youth and it made an impression. The genesis of the film – from seeing a photo of Stuart Sutcliffe and Astrid Kirchherr – in a pre-internet world is fascinating (those trips to Sevenoaks and Hamburg would surely have been Google searches and Zoom meetings in 2024).

Another good film about – one of – the Fab Four is Christopher Münch’s The Hours and Times (1991). It focuses solely on the relationship – albeit fictionalised – between John Lennon and Brian Epstein. As a youngster, I remember an article, in the once mighty but now long-defunct US film magazine Premiere, describing it as the film Oliver Stone’s The Doors (also 1991) should have been.

(Sir) Sam Mendes is directing four major films about the band due to be released in 2027. I think it highly unlikely that they will be anywhere near as good as these two low-budget early-1990s films.
Will Goble 
Rayleigh, Essex

“Birth of the Beatles” should also have mentioned Michael Thomas’s great screenplay.
Joe Boyd

Linguistic colonisation
Absent from “Language on the move” (TNE #393), a customarily informative article by Peter Trudgill, is yet another mechanism for the geographical migration of language – active suppression by a colonising power.

Mr Trudgill mentions Scottish Gaelic in his article and it is an example of a language which was subjected to active suppression following the Jacobite Rising of 1745/6. The Hanoverians imposed a number of cultural sanctions on the Gaels, in addition to their language.

Many Gaels emigrated to places like Canada, and in some provinces Gaelic is a daily spoken language. However, for those who remained in Scotland the suppression of Gaelic was something which continued into the 1920/30s, ie the suppression lasted for around 180 years.

This was principally effected by not permitting Gaelic to be spoken in schools. Children who were heard speaking their native language received corporal punishment.

I know this, because my late mother was one of those. Although she spoke and wrote very competently in English (not Scots) for all of her life she proudly spoke Gaelic. 

This determined defiance was also accompanied by a burning sense of injustice. Shortly before she died, I recall her shedding tears of anger as she recalled childhood beatings for speaking Gaelic.
Alasdair Macdonald
Glasgow, Scotland

We need immigration
I must take issue with Jonty Bloom’s assertion (TNE #392) that nobody is talking up the benefits of immigration. On Question Time’s seven-sided debate, Liz Saville-Roberts of Plaid Cymru and Stephen Flynn of the SNP both paid tribute to the positive effects of immigration, and the sectors that are completely dependent on their contribution. Most importantly, each got a warm round of applause from their respective audience.

It’s just regrettable that the mainstream national parties can’t find the bottle to do the same.
Charles Baily 
Bedford, Beds

I have recently been on holiday with Anglophile German friends and shared some cuttings of Tanit Koch’s Germansplaining with them. They wholly approved and suggested a couple of idioms that might be covered in future columns:

1) “Kreißsaal, Hörsaal, Plenarsaal” refers to today’s politicians and their lack of ever having worked in a proper job/profession.

Kreißsaal is the place where people are born, Hörsaal is the lecture hall at university, Plenarsaal is the parliament.

2) “Wer nichts wird, wird Wirt” refers to people who haven’t completed proper education or lack qualifications and then decide on opening a pub. “Wird” means “becomes” and “Wirt” means “landlord”.
Stephen Davies

Comments, conversation and correspondence from our online subscribers

Re: Josh Barrie on food influencers (TNE #393). I often wonder what they will do when AI takes over the advertising side of social media. What will influencer-types like Tod, mentioned in Josh Barrie’s piece, then do to earn an income?
Peter Kidman

Re: Jonty Bloom on the BBC’s failings in the referendum campaign (TNE #393). My experience campaigning for Stronger In in Hampshire and Surrey was that no one was impressed by the long lists of eminent economists and business leaders who Cameron and Osborne wheeled out. Cummings’ Take Back Control was sheer genius and touched a nerve even in the leafy suburbs.
Tim Smart

Re: “Fifteen ideas for a better Britain” (TNE #392) and the added suggestions from readers in TNE #393. May I add that all members of the judiciary should be made to undertake domestic violence and abuse training?
Paul Madge

In your Great Life of Willy Ley (TNE #393), you write: “Ley’s succession of bestselling books explaining in layman’s terms how and why space travel was not only feasible but inevitable.” Local space travel maybe, but the idea that anything more than that is possible is mistaken.

The speeds necessary to reach even the nearest star, (four light years away) are literally impossible with any conceivable propulsion system, you can’t carry enough fuel to keep accelerating long enough, and the melting point of the propulsion mechanism would limit the propulsive force anyway. It would also take so very long to get there (a minimum of several tens of thousands of years) that there would be no point.
Mike McCormack

I love Alastair Campbell’s story of smuggling bagpipes into the ground for Scotland v Germany at the Euros (Diary, TNE #393). When my local women’s team, who have an exuberant fan base, played a cup game last season we were warned that no noisy instruments were allowed. Bagpipes would certainly have been spotted at the turnstile, but our kazoos provided a more than adequate substitute. Wheelie bins, kindly provided by our opponents, are also good replacement drums!
John Dallimore

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See inside the End of the party edition

Workers build the first ‘green tunnel’ in the UK at Chipping Warden, near Banbury; the 1.5-mile tunnel is designed to blend the controversial high-speed railway into the landscape. Photo: Mark Case/Getty

Britain is playing economic catch-up

Why have we failed to invest anywhere near as much as our rivals – and what can we do to put things right?

Credit: Tim Bradford

Cartoon: Have you got election fever?