Victory at the ECJ shows Britain can still make its voice heard in the EU.
Show Hide image

Forget leaving - Britain does best at the heart of Europe

Victory at the European Court of Justice shows Britain's interests are best served fighting its corner in Europe, not sulking on the sidelines

This week, Britain won a historic legal battle in Europe when proposals that would have banned large-scale trading in euros from taking place outside the Eurozone were struck down by the EU's General Court. The proposals, put forward by the European Central Bank, would have forced UK firms handling large trades in euros to relocate to the eurozone, most likely to financial centres such as Paris or Frankfurt. With around 40 per cent of euro-denominated trading taking place in the UK, more than any other EU country, that would have had a dramatic impact on the British economy. Today's ruling will secure London's status as Europe's financial capital and uphold a level playing field for all countries in the EU's single market, whether they are inside or outside the eurozone.

It is also a powerful example of why the UK must remain in the EU if we are to properly defend our economic interests. Had the UK not been an EU member, we would not have been able to challenge this potentially damaging proposal and see it revoked. Those advocating EU exit have to explain how they would defend British interests by robbing the UK of its influence at Europe's top table. From the fight against climate change to financial regulation, decisions taken in Brussels will continue to profoundly affect the UK whether we remain in the EU or not. The truly patriotic approach is not to retreat to the side-lines, but to continue fighting our corner.

Some eurosceptics will point to deepening integration in the eurozone as a sign of why we must leave the EU. But if anything, today's ruling shows that the opposite is true. Now more than ever, the UK has to retain its influence in the EU and ensure that there is no discrimination in the single market between eurozone and non-eurozone members. More ambitiously, we have to make sure that the internal market is expanded and modernised to areas where the UK excels such as the digital economy, as outlined by Vince Cable last month. By setting a positive agenda for reform, Britain can lead in Europe and ensure the single market remains the EU's central and defining feature.

 

Tim Farron is leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Getty
Show Hide image

A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear