Going through the motions

19 May

When I was twelve or thirteen I decided that I wanted to join the school sailing club. The stipulation for joining was the ability to swim 50 yards, and I could not swim. As I lived in Dover at the time I decided on a crash course of learning to swim. There was no town swimming pool at the time, so I learned to swim in Dover Harbour, and reached the necessary proficiency in less than two weeks. I could and can be single minded and absurdly determined when I want to be.

Dover Harbour did not meet any standards as to cleanliness of the beaches as there were none and there was a sewerage outlet that caused some objects to float towards shore on the incoming tide. So as I was learning to swim I was not only going through the motions but paddling in the piddle. Strange to relate I don’t remember ever getting any serious disease, but maybe I was just lucky. Several people of my generation I knew became infected with poliomyelitis, which could be caught from swimming in polluted water. That is how Ian Drury was infected.

In the 1980’s Margaret Thatcher’s government sold off the water industry to private buyers. At the same time European legislation demanded the clean-up of beaches and other environmental measures. The Tory government howled in protest, but the new private owners were forced to implement these measures, passing the cost on to the consumer. There has been a further tightening on pollution controls since.

As a result of this legislation we now have clean beaches, and as part of this we also have much lower rates of poliomyelitis. Would the government have passed legislation in this country without the shove from Europe? Almost certainly the answer to that is ‘No’.

The workers rights we have in this country are largely the result of European directives, and try as they might to circumvent such legislation the current Tory administration has to follow this bare minimum of fairness. At a time when the wealth gap between the richest and the poorest has become a huge gulf it is necessary to have such controls. The unions are largely powerless these days.

So when you hear of the dead hand of Brussels forcing their will on this country, answer with the comment that most of this legislation is worthwhile. I listened to the BBC radio news programme ‘Today’ last week and one item was from a meeting of small business owners. One man who was in favour of Brexit was asked if there was a significant burden of bureaucracy from the EU said that it did not effect him as he did not export. Another business owner, who did export, when asked the same question said that the burden was less than from the UK specific controls. I have a strong suspicion that much of what is blamed on Brussels bureaucracy is in fact our own controls and the way we apply European guidelines and directives. It is so much easier to blame other people than do something about it yourself.


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