Letter: Maastricht rebels have saved our nation billions

EDITOR – It is pleasing to see such busy shops during the Christmas sales. Our recovery will be driven by a freer financial environment.

The wealth of virtually every developed society in history has depended on a free interaction between market supply and public demand.

It is amazing, therefore, to see this basic balance ignored by educated politicians whose egos and ideology stand in the way of progress.

I have recently been contacted by a number of small business owners in my constituency who face devastating losses of revenue under new measures to keep tobacco hidden out of sight within shops.

Yes, smoking is unhealthy (and no, I don’t smoke), but research suggests that other countries which have hidden their tobacco displays haven’t decreased the number of smokers in their societies.

This is a prime example of a popular political move which could add a purposeless cost to small businesses at a time when we need them most. In order to protect small shops I shall fight this measure, but the battle to protect our finances from political arrogance has already been raging for decades.

The good news is that we are doing quite well in some areas.

Personally, I feel the struggle to maintain independence from the Euro has been won.

There are a dozen political excuses for the financial devastation suffered in Greece and Ireland, but these financial disasters are the end result of a vision for financial conformity across Europe.

It is not a vision I share, and now everyone can see that it’s not working.

In the early 1990s, a number of Tory backbenchers (myself included) rebelled against John Major’s Government to prevent the Maastricht Treaty, which would have paved the way for Britain to join the Euro.

Ireland now needs an £85bn bailout and the UK will supply £7.5bn of that money (about £300 for every household in the UK).

We have to do this to protect our own banks from Irish debts.

At the time of our Maastricht rebellion, our actions were seen as scandalous and I was sacked as a minister, but the Treasury recently assured me that the Eurozone nations will be responsible for tackling their crisis today – not us.

We can be thankful, therefore, that the British public purse is free from this mess and you are free from having to pay dearly for that one mistake that, thankfully, no British Government ever made – joining the Euro.

Edward Leigh

MP for Gainsborough