USA World News

It is wrong to compare the EU to intergovernmental organisations, such as the United Nations and NATO

David Booker writes that our membership of the EU was an agreement with other sovereign states for our mutual benefit – one of many such agreements (Letters, 3 December).

Not so. The United Nations, NATO and World Trade Organisation are intergovernmental organisations, promoting co-operation and co-ordination among their members; crucially, the member states do not surrender any power or sovereignty to the organisation.

By contrast, membership of a supranational organisation, like the European Union, is different because member states surrender power (and therefore sovereignty) in specific areas to the organisation. These areas were greatly expanded under the Treaty of Lisbon.  

Decisions taken by the EU must be obeyed by the member states. Penalties are imposed for violations, as several countries know to their cost.

Dr John Doherty  

Stratford-upon-Avon

Britain is making a rod for its own back

It would be an absolutely extraordinary act of self-harm if Britain failed to do a Brexit deal owing to the minuscule issue of fishing. Significantly more people work in Debenhams than work in fishing; and, of course, fishing contributes almost nothing to the economy.

I think I’d describe the situation as “mad” if our government decides to destroy the economy in an attempt to help a few fishermen. It’s a sad sign that jingoistic nationalism before all else is still the government’s priority.  

Sebastian Monblat  

Sutton, Greater London 

Turning up the heat

Jane Valentine

Colchester

Let down by Gavin Williamson

It’s wonderful news that the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for immediate use.

But the very first thing that Matt Hancock said in his Today programme interview on Wednesday was that he was pleased that we were the first country in the world to reach this point. 

Now Gavin Williamson  has made an embarrassing statement about Britain being better than every other country. It’s been suggested that he was joking, though that was belied by a statement later made on his behalf, saying how patriotic he is.

How depressing that the instant reaction of ministers is to descend to the playground competitiveness and pettiness that are the hallmark of this government.

Susan Alexander

Address supplied

I wonder if Gavin Williamson has been listening to the memorable words of Flanders and Swann: “The English, the English, the English are best/ I wouldn’t give tuppence for all of the rest.”

I’m not sure who creates the most laughs, the great comedy duo or Williamson.

Rachel Greenwood

Worcestershire  

Memories of Margaret

As for The Crown’s portrayal of Princess Margaret as crushingly regal, I can relay one accurate story. In the 80s, my work colleague attended a lunch at which Margaret was the guest of honour. The royal personage was led by fawning hosts to the lovely buffet laid on for her. She gazed at it, and, staring into the middle distance, stated : “I want a large, flet pleat.” (Translation: flat plate). She continued to silently stare into the distance, while panicked flunkeys rushed about to satisfy the royal command.

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My colleague’s telling of this story on her return from the lunch was hilarious, and the phrase, “I want a large, flet pleat”, is still used by me to describe impossibly haughty and demanding behaviour.

Penny Little

Oxfordshire

More education woe

There have been two missed opportunities in education.

Firstly, there have been discussions around the timing of university applications and admissions for a long time. The recent announcement of the change to applications being made once the results are known makes a great deal of sense (‘University and college offers could soon be based on actual grades, UCAS says’, 9 November). It is a shame that the stakeholders in education did not grasp the nettle and push back the start of the higher and further year to January, at least for this year and maybe for all freshers in perpetuity. I realise that there are implications to staff contracts etc. but it would have saved an awful lot of grief to this years cohort.

Secondly, the recent announcements about the GCSE and A level exams in 2021 look extremely unfair, not to this years cohorts but to those who went before and come after. Making marking easier or making papers less taxing is surely not a sensible way to go (‘GCSE and A-levels to be marked more generously next year in light of Covid disruption’, 3 December). Examine less of the syllabus, that is fair, but write papers that give the students a choice of questions rather than making them answer the whole thing and then mark to the same standard as in every other year. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey it was how exams used to be written.

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Anne Robson

Ban on live-animal export must go further

The news that England and Wales are set to introduce a ban on live-animal export is music to our ears, but chickens – who are capable of suffering every bit as much as sheep and cows – must not be left out of the new legislation (‘Government plans ban on controversial live animal exports’, 3 December).

All animals who are subjected to live export endure severe distress when they’re crammed into barren containers without fresh air, food, adequate water, and veterinary care and forced to marinate alive in their own waste. Transporting terrified animals hundreds or thousands of miles in such conditions also poses a risk of spreading zoonotic diseases – from foot-and-mouth disease and avian influenza to Sars.

Most animals raised for their flesh already endure the misery of confinement and the heartbreak of being separated from their babies. The least we can do is spare them the trauma of an arduous journey overseas, only to be killed at their destination.

Mimi Bekhechi

Vice president, Peta Foundation