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L arry Elliott is consistent in his criticism of the EU (The left must stop mourning Brexit – and start seeing its huge potential, 31 December). He points out the neoliberalism inherent in the core EU policies of free movement of goods, services, capital and people. He then extols the advantages for the UK of being freed from EU shackles to pursue its own destiny in the world.
But aren’t we committed to chasing the same neoliberalism on a broader canvas? He says nothing of the EU’s social and political projects – health and safety, employment protection, social welfare, retirement rights and other programmes. He ignores the ambitions of a gradual rapprochement between nations that engaged in monstrous wars in the recent past. Brexit UK is moving backwards, self-condemned to continued national decline, as other countries find ways of developing at least some elements of a progressive agenda in a harsh and divided world.
Professor of social policy, University of Kent
• Larry Elliott cites the example of Italy to lead to a conclusion that the EU has not been a success. It could be easily argued that the relatively poor economic performance of Italy is due to successive corrupt and incompetent governance as much as to the effects of monetary union – ditto Greece. How does one explain the performance of Ireland (where I am happily exiled), the Iberian countries and the newly admitted eastern European countries, where there have been substantial improvements in standards of living?
Moreover, Elliott also seems to be appealing to the left on purely economic terms. Just as the remainers failed to appreciate that for many leavers, the decision was an emotional, not a rational, one, so it is for many remainers that the decision was more about culture than economics. Brexit deprives millions of UK citizens of the right they had to travel, study and work across the 27 countries of the EU without let or hindrance. As a person of the left, I will always mourn that.
Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland
• Larry Elliott looks to Britain’s future post-Brexit and to the vision the Labour party might have at this crossroads moment. Surely the question is, what kind of country do we want? Are we looking to be a European Singapore or Cayman Islands, with free ports owned by venture capitalists? Will we be a European neoliberal economy with an American model, with its consequent rewards for the few?
Or will we take the opportunity to rebalance our economy? Will we invest in improving our skills so that we are in a strong position to be more self-reliant in green industries, and in the care and horticultural sectors? Will therefore our vision be of a European social democratic country that invests in its citizens and rewards them proportionately?
I look forward to the Labour party promoting just such a vision. We have the opportunity. We must ensure that it is grabbed by those of us who want a Britain for the many, not the few.
• Larry Elliott’s progressive vision for Brexit will be hard to realise. Since 1918, Labour has won only eight of 28 general elections. And since 1945, just three Labour leaders have won general election majorities. Unless Labour fights incredibly skilfully, Brexit will be what its architects always intended it to be: a rightwing, free market, deregulating project. That’s the problem with welcoming history’s disruptive engine – it might just run you over.