EU barriers to state ownership do exist

Polly Toynbee (Labour should exploit the Tories’ disarray on Europe, not copy it, 25 June) claims it is wrong to suggest the EU prevents state ownership and gives as an example how European rail networks remain state-owned; she should have added “for now”. The market pillar of the fourth rail package, as agreed in April 2016, mandates “more competition and performance targets for public service contracts, so as to improve cost-efficiency and get better value for money for taxpayers”, which sounds wearingly familiar. And with 2020 as the target date.

Given that the EU court of justice has deliberated that article 106 of the Single Market Act – the one prohibiting renationalisation – gives private companies the right to argue before their national courts that services must remain open to private-sector competition, it is hard to see any wriggle room there when Jeremy Corbyn seeks to implement his manifesto.

She goes on to ridicule the assertion that the act bans state aid; has she forgotten the Redcar steelworks in October 2015, when the government refused to intervene in the liquidation process as it would be contrary to article 87? The people of Redcar didn’t the following June, when they voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU. For the 31 years of its existence, the Single Market Act has given rightwing governments (of whatever stripe) carte blanche to sit back and watch millions of people across Europe lose their livelihoods. And people are supposed to believe it is the sole guarantor of our prosperity.

• The furore over chlorine chicken (Safety worries over chlorine-washed US chicken cloud pursuit of trade deal, 25 June) is symbolic of much deeper politics around the future of Britain. By suggesting he’s open to accepting food with lower regulatory standards than we currently enjoy, Liam Fox shows his clear preference for moving Britain towards the North American trading bloc, with its focus on deregulated markets. Fox’s statements on liberalisation of data, which risks handing more control of our personal privacy to gigantic hi-tech companies, confirm his stance.

But every step we take towards the US orbit is a step away from the EU, because trade deals today are about regulation more than tariffs. If we go with US standards, we say goodbye to retaining integration with our neighbours in the EU. This has huge impacts for consumer protection, environmental standards, public services and social welfare. Fox may indeed think chlorine chicken is a small detail, but it’s emblematic of major decisions that are being made in secret, without the full implications being properly understood by the British public.

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