Australian letters

30 June 2016

1:00 PM

30 June 2016

1:00 PM

Religion of peace?

Sir: Chris Ashton (“It’s the religion, stupid”, 18 June 2016) refers to Christianity’s “relative peacefulness, especially today”.

“Especially today” is indeed a significant caveat. Until recently (in terms of the religion’s 2000-year history) Christianity’s interactions with Jewish people consisted largely of persecution, forced conversions, pogroms and, often, execution. A religion which has been violent towards non-believers for many centuries is not necessarily in a position to lecture others about the evils of their practices.

Of course we acknowledge that things have changed recently, although Mr Ashton’s piece shows that they have not changed enough. If he can write “there is no theocratic nation of Israel” shows that the hurtful replacement theology, which led to the centuries of oppression mentioned above, is still alive and well.
Rabbi James Kennard
St Kilda East, Vic

A rational vote

Sir: There has been a lot of bile poured out about those who voted Leave by the Remainers. Their intelligence, their racial tolerance and their general moral standing has been called into question. I was a Remain voter, but live in an area that was 69 per cent Leave, and work with people who were strongly anti-remaining.

To take one example, being anti-free migration is being referred to as racism. For many people migration is not anything to do with race or even nationality: 1,000 people from the next town would create the same degree of concern as 1,000 Poles. When jobs, houses, school places and so on are limited, it is the amount of competition faced that creates the problem, not where the competition comes from.

For a man or woman living in Hull or Stoke or Burnley with ten new jobs a week being created and ten people a week — local people — seeking jobs, then seeing ten or 15 migrants moving in each week is frightening. If those migrants came from Leeds or Milton Keynes, it would not reduce the fear. Economics, not race or nationality, is the problem.

It is many years since I received my economics degree, but the law of supply and demand still applies. People in towns with high unemployment know that with more people chasing each job, the wage offered can be lower. The minimum wage in many places has become the usual wage. Skill premiums have disappeared as European skilled workers take the job at minimum wage that 20 years ago would have attracted a 10 or 20 per cent top up. Would zero-hour contracts exist if employers had more jobs than there were applicants?

There has been much flaunting of the economic benefits of migration. But for many people, the reality has been lower wages, longer hours and less hope for the future. As a reasonably comfortable older person with a Polish cleaner I voted Remain. For anyone without my personal advantages, I think Leave might have been the only sensible choice.
David Thomas
Stoke on Trent

Our next two referendums

Sir: While we’re in this turmoil anyway, let’s go for broke and re-run the Scottish and Northern Irish referendums so that we can have a settled basis for our future. If Scotland opts for independence this time, so be it. In Northern Ireland’s case, unifying with the Irish Republic would be the simplest way to retain EU membership. After all, the aim of the EU is progressive political integration and so, had we stayed in, there would eventually have been no international border between north and south. I see no reason why this should have an adverse effect on practical relationships within the British Isles. Ireland and the UK have long had reciprocal rights such as residency, predating EU membership. Such arrangements would simply extend to Scotland. As for our revised name, after Scotland’s departure, I suggest just ‘Britain’.
Ken Stevens
Sonning Common, Oxfordshire

The deals we used to have

Sir: I was surprised to learn from last week’s leading article (‘Can you forgive him?’, 25 June) that the EU has never been ‘open to reform’. Reforms have in fact been made, it’s just that Brussels has been terrible at communicating them.

Britain has four ‘opt-outs’ in big areas of European policy: from the Schengen Area to the Charter of Fundamental Rights (only three other countries have opt-outs, and none as many as the UK). In addition, Thatcher secured the hefty budget rebate in 1985, worth about 30 per cent of our yearly contribution. That’s before considering Cameron’s own settlement, which would have further extended the UK’s unique and flexible arrangement.

The commonly held view of Brussels as a set of institutions fixed in rigor mortis doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The failure to combat that message, during the referendum campaign and in the decades since 1973 has contributed hugely to the European project’s downfall in Britain.
Sam Douglas-Bate
London SW11

Buck up, Brexiteers!

Sir: The real villains of the referendum are surely not the scaremongering Remain side nor the lily-livered Leave campaign but those voters who have changed their minds since Friday morning. Now is not the time for spineless inconsistency. The nation needs to see confidence from those people who voted for Brexit because, if they are not confident, how can you expect panic to subside?
Diana Stewart-Brown
London W14

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