Table of Contents
Getting Brexit right
SIR – I was pleased to read that MPs may have to work during Christmas to pass the relevant legislation over Brexit. Many others will have to work at this time, and it is right that politicians should do so.
We are seeing classic EU brinkmanship: leave it until the last minute and slide a deal through without time for full scrutiny.
We know that the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties were not what they were dressed up to be. This is the most important piece of legislation in years, and it has to be fully understood.
SIR – My small business traded worldwide before Britain joined the Common Market, as it was then.
Importing from and exporting to Europe did not present any difficulties. One phone call to a reputable shipping agent and the process was managed seamlessly. These days we have computers, yet it seems that chaos will ensue once the transition period ends.
Rail fare rises
SIR – The Government may have kept the rail network operating effectively during the past 10 months but, at the same time, it strongly advised that public transport should only be used by those who could not work from home, or cycle or walk to work. For once, one did not have to be a scientist to realise that this would result in a financial shortfall of some magnitude.
Against this background, fare increases above the rate of inflation (the yardstick in recent years) are a bitter pill for commuters to swallow. The suggestion by the rail minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, that delaying the change in fares – to take effect two months later than usual – “ensures passengers who need to travel have a better deal this year” is barely credible.
Is the Government still trying to discourage people from using public transport?
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
A real green plan
SIR – The Government has set ambitious targets for reducing emissions, backed up by its 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution.
The size of the challenge was demonstrated a couple of days ago. The country required about 40 GW of electricity; 57 per cent was provided by gas, 5 per cent by coal, 16 per cent by nuclear, 10 per cent by electricity imported from Europe, less than 1 per cent by wind and the remaining 11 per cent by solar, hydro and biomass.
The dash towards electrically powered heat pumps in place of gas and oil boilers, and the switch to electric vehicles, will greatly increase demand just as coal and nuclear power availability reduce significantly.
The level of investment in the 10-point plan is trivial – about 8 per cent of what HS2 will cost. When is the Government going to start providing the resources required to create hundreds of thousands of new green jobs, open up a huge export market and secure the UK’s place as a leader in the fight against climate change?
No red sky
SIR – Where are the redwings this year?
Usually by this time in December our holly trees (and our neighbours’) have been stripped of their berries.
Enterprises to bank on
SIR – As banks prepare to start paying dividends and bonuses again, they should consider their responsibility and self-interest in supporting the wider economy.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the bedrock of employment and economic growth in the UK. According to surveys by City UK and McKinsey, over 500,000 may not survive the next 12 months. Many small-business owners have turned to high-cost credit cards and overdrafts.
On a more positive note, more than 10 per cent of SMEs see opportunities for growth in the “new normal”, but their survival and growth depends on access to affordable finance.
In recent months UK banks have closed their doors to new SMEs, choking off this vital lifeline. This is in contrast to countries such as the US, where banks are better at recognising their wider social responsibilities. Banking-sector investments in socially driven lenders such as Community Development Finance Institutions can help to bridge the financing gap for viable businesses left by banks as they desert the high street.
Banks need to step up their efforts to support SMEs. This Government should lead the way by using its own shareholdings for wider public benefit.
Director, Responsible Finance
SIR – I was dismayed by Con Coughlin’s suggestion that Donald Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mr Coughlin should visit the US to see first-hand the divisions here today, amid the fallout from the virus.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump has played down the danger of Covid-19, denied American citizens affordable healthcare and refused to concede defeat to president-elect Joe Biden. All this while his party and cadre of family advisers stand by and do nothing.
Elaine C Wilson
Redding, Connecticut, United States