It’s just a copout to carp about EU

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Mr Harper’s assertion (letters March 7) that immigration from the EU is responsible for our housing crisis is very wide of the mark.

In my direct experience immigrants are not eligible for help from the State unless they are employed and paying tax and certainly have no chance of jumping the housing queue - we were quoted four years as a minimum, and then only if employment and tax requirements had been met.

There are undoubtedly people who take advantage of the system, both British, other EU nationalities and those from further afield, but the rules are clearly set out on HMRC’s website.

A recent article by Jonathan Portes, former chief economist at the Cabinet Office, states that ‘all the evidence suggests that migrants - especially from new European member states - are net contributors to the public purse’.

There is a great deal more information in the article that is of interest to anyone concerned with this widely misrepresented issue. It can be found on the Guardian website.

In addition Mr Harper parrots the old UKIP line of the EU being an undemocratic clique that costs us a fortune. This is arrant nonsense. Like every other EU country we elect MEPs, 78 in total, who together with those elected from the other 26 members States make up the 754 members of the European Parliament.

The European Parliament and the European Council of Ministers puts forward proposals for discussion to the European Commission, the EU’s Civil Service, that draws up proposals for EU laws on those issues that fall within the EU’s competence.

Issues such as the NHS, education, housing, pensions, social security, income tax, local government, most aspects of crime and punishment and devolution remain national issues, settled by our National Parliament.

The European Commission is elected by the European Parliament by absolute majority. The European Council of Ministers is formed by Ministers from National Governments and its priorities and direction are set by Prime Ministers and Presidents.

Meetings are attended by the Minister relevant to the issue under discussion - Agriculture Ministers on farming issues - Environmental Ministers on environmental issues and so on. The European Union is a democracy where laws are proposed, debated and decided upon by our elected representatives.

The EU costs us the sum of half a second class stamp per person per day, that is about two per cent of UK public expenditure. For this two per cent we have access to one of the largest markets in the world - tariff free. More importantly we are able, as part of this great institution, to negotiate from a position of strength in an increasingly global world. Does anyone really think we could negotiate successfully with the Americans, the Chinese or the Indians on our own? A substantial number of prominent business men and women have already made their concerns clear for the future prosperity of Britain should we leave the EU. As they are at the sharp end of this country earnings its way in the world, perhaps we should listen to them.

The EU is not perfect, no organisation is, but instead of taking the easy route and blaming it for everything including the housing crisis, we should be engaging with its organisations wholeheartedly. It is just a cop-out to sit on the EU sidelines and carp. We can and must do better than that!

DAVID WEAVER

Heron Shaw, Cranleigh