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29 June 2022

Letter of the week: What Brexit meant

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By New Statesman

Ivan Rogers (Cover Story, 24 June) is very perceptive but he is wrong to say that “the version of Brexit that attracted most Leave voters at the referendum was essentially neutral”.

“Take back control” was not an abstract democratic slogan without substantive policy content that left open the main economic and social consequences of Brexit. On the contrary, it was both presented and understood as an echo of “immigration control”, and the Conservatives’ deference to this understanding led both the May and Johnson governments to pursue a hard Brexit that removed the UK from the single market.

Indeed, as Rogers suggests, today Boris Johnson governs in a permanent campaigning mode and, although the government’s focus has now switched to asylum seekers, the political racism that drove the referendum result is still to the fore.
Martin Shaw, author of “Political Racism: Brexit and its Aftermath”, emeritus professor of international relations and politics, University of Sussex

A post-2016 world

In his excellent article (Cover Story, 24 June) Ivan Rogers states that proponents of Brexit “argue – wrongly – that Brexit is in constant danger of being reversed”. Ardent Brexiteers should note that neither Labour nor the Liberal Democrats are campaigning to overturn Brexit, and that the two Leave-voting constituencies that ousted the Conservative Party in by-elections on 23 June show that the electorate, if not the proponents of Brexit, has now moved on.
John Boaler, Calne, Wiltshire

It is encouraging that illustrious contributors such as Ivan Rogers are speaking out with increasing vigour on a subject that has until recently seemed taboo. However, I would take issue with the remark that “it is inconceivable that the UK could accept rule-taking in the way Norway does”. The reality is that any country wishing to trade with the EU must accept EU trade rules. Brexit has made us a rule-taker rather than a rule-maker, having given up our seat at the table making those rules. So much for taking back control.
Philip Bushill-Matthews, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

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Striking back

I don’t often disagree with Andrew Marr, but I think he is wrong on the current public mood and the blame game for strikes (Politics, 24 June). Governments with a large majority can’t claim to be in thrall to union power.

Electorates blame governments who have been in power for some time for chaos and economic hardship. Mick Lynch of the RMT is striking a chord with the public, who recognise the arguments for higher pay and want the same. Marr is guilty of being drawn into the mindset of the Peter Mandelson clique advising Keir Starmer, which is fighting the election of 1997, not 2025.
Neil Goldsmith, Hayfield, Derbyshire

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Russia’s export drain

Helen Thompson (These Times, 24 June) warns that since Russia is a Eurasian energy exporter, its resource power cannot be seriously dented by energy sanctions. Recent credible analysis suggests that in the next eight years Russia would be extremely fortunate to be able to triple or quadruple its current exports of gas to Asia – but they would still constitute only around 60 per cent of recent Russian gas exports to OECD Europe, and on much more unfavourable terms.

Similarly with oil, a report in the Washington Post suggests that Russia’s production by 2030 will be two million barrels a day lower than before the war, so that Russia’s short-term benefit from higher world oil prices will reverse and “the medium term will see Russia’s production and revenues drop precipitously”.
Tony Bovaird, Birmingham

In defence of sex work

Louise Perry is rather harsh when she asserts that women who buy sex “are just as contemptible as their male counterparts” (Out of the Ordinary, 24 June). When I worked as a sex therapist I frequently encountered people who bought sex for one reason or another, and often their motives seemed rather honourable, such as to cater to a fetish their spouse didn’t share. People can also develop illnesses which affect their sexuality, and I know I would prefer my partner to buy sex rather than abandon me in such circumstances.

Perry seems to be upset about the notion of cash changing hands, but in my work I suspected that many of my clients were gratified simply by being able to talk about sex in a non-judgemental way, and it did not feel like a depressing transaction. 
Veronica Porter, London SW8

A fascist regime?

Had David Kynaston ever lived under a fascist regime he would be more circumspect about the accusation that Boris Johnson is a fascist (Correspondence, 24 June). One can – and should – accuse Johnson of many things, often mutually contradictory: at times he is a libertarian, at times an authoritarian. He is mendacious, illiberal and arrogant, and sadly unaware of the rule of law, human rights, constitutional conventions, the separation of powers or the necessity of honouring international treaties. But a fascist he isn’t.
David Burgess, Little Bardfield, Essex

Soothing words

You don’t read the New Statesman unless you have faith that the world could be better than it is. Unfortunately, working through many of the necessary but downbeat articles in recent issues I’ve found my optimism dented. So thank you, Pippa Bailey, for your gentle but scholarly portrait of the staff at the Oxford English Dictionary (Reporter at Large, 24 June). Inspired by their self-effacing approach to a never-ending task, I can return to the fray.
Richard Taylor, Darlington, County Durham

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The letters page often makes me pick up the previous week’s issue wondering: “Crumbs, how did I miss that?” Thank you!
Sally Litherland, Salisbury, Wiltshire

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[ See also: Letters of the week: Dark heart of government ]

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This article appears in the 29 Jun 2022 issue of the New Statesman, American Darkness