D.Day, (letters July 2014) when French civilian deaths exceeded the total of both sides combined, was strongly remembered as proving beyond doubt the need for a European Union to preserve the peace by my father, E.K.Cole of EKCO who worked himself to utter exhaustion managing 20% of Britain’s wartime radar production.
A passionate member of the group of Conservative business men who defied the Labour Government to finance the launch the UK European Movement in January 1949, it would astonish him that argument about the EU fails to mention the issues of war and peace. Would it be a good idea to divide Ireland by a customs barrier again?
Worse, historically the explosive situation of the kind we see in the Ukraine has caused the French and the Prussians to take opposite sides, frequently triggering a general European War. In total contrast today a British High Representative, Baroness Ashton, elected by a huge majority of European M.P.s in a free vote, speaks for a united Europe in equal partnership with the U.S. Secretary of State. My father would surely regard this as just reward for the joint work we did together to urge Britain to join a United Europe.
Admission was applied for by one Conservative P.M., Harold Macmillan and achieved by another, Ted Heath. Unlike any party leader today, both by front line fighting experience knew what a European War is like. No wonder the EU has won the Nobel Peace Prize.
The political search for peace was always our prime motive but my father sent me to Brussels in 1958 to research the implications for trade. Nobody wants to be struck dead by their electrical or other gadgets, so EKCO always accepted that regulations are essential. Already there was European agreement about ‘double insulation’; and ‘the standard finger’ but I found that every country insisted that any imported model was submitted to its own expensive safety checks. Worse, interpretation of the rules differed in every country, so a variety of models was required.
The rules were blatantly used to reduce imports by governments who also imposed their own VAT, import duties, examination charges,import quotas and secret preferences for local goods. Customers everywhere suffered hugely by these massive costs. Their abolition by Brussels has vastly increased European prosperity. I know. I was there and saw what it was like. For every 10000 consumer safety regulations made by Brussels, a quarter of a million national ones are abolished.
We did our best. On becoming Export Coordinator for Pye/EKCO I worked to hurdle the then manifold hurdles. When Philips took-over, they found that the group was the largest exporter of TV and Radio in the country, but trade was limited and squeezed by national policies. Brussels has ruthlessly swept away this mass of national regulation so that once a product is approved it can be sold in all 28 members of the EU.
No wonder the overwhelmingly conservative F.B.I. are horrified by suggestions that we should ‘repatriate’ powers and make our own regulations once more. Every exporter would need two models, one for the U.K. and one for Europe, a situation I knew well. It caused a serious reduction in our export trade, and, if reintroduced, would make us all very very worse off.
Derek J. Cole