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An open letter to Britain and the Netherlands

Inspired by McSweeney’s and an economic situation in world news which has irked me so, I decided to write the following:

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Dear Britain and the Netherlands,

On Saturday 6th, I read here that Iceland would be having a referendum vote. The vote would assess public opinion as to whether the Icelandic people should be responsible for paying back 3.8 bn euros (£3.4 bn) following the collapse of the Icesave Online bank. 340,000 British and Dutch clients were compensated, following the collapse, and now their respective countries want their money back; a ‘repayment scheme’ was the outcome of this. The scheme, however, would mean that every Icelandic citizen would need to contribute 99 euros a month for eight years at an interest rate of 5.5% expected to kick in on the eighth year of the scheme.

The reason I am writing is that I wanted to share a recent news story that I encountered on March 3rd. The Daily Express broke the story, ‘Ticket Tyrants even target flooded cars’. The River Ouse in York had broken its banks and overflown into the city centre, causing cars to move from their original parking places. When the flood had subsided, local council parking attendants had ‘awarded’ these sodden cars with tickets. Interviewed about the tickets, a council spokesperson claimed to be unaware of the flood, and suggested that affected drivers would need to give proof that their car had been moved by the river in order for the council to rebuke the fines. The council have been criticised for not having more “compassion”.

Anyone who has had a ticket will know – and I don’t because I cannot drive, but am assured – that appealing ticket fines is often a fruitless endeavour involving far too much effort with no guarantee of appeal. Moreover, if your appeal IS declined – and chances suggest it WOULD be – appealees must then pay the full fine rather than the reduced fee for having paid in a speedy manner. The outcome of this is that often, people end up paying the fee just to make life easier and because they feel that they have no other option.

So, what is the relevance of my mentioning this story?

Whilst I don’t blame the Icelandic government for suggesting such a radical payment scheme to you – I’m sure they considered it the ONLY solution they had to restore their reputation and thus raise their economic status at this time – I don’t agree with the way you have gone about coming to this conclusion, nor indeed the conclusion itself. You have forced the hand of Iceland by blocking their EU application, and worst still, immorally used the anti-terrorism act in order to block Iceland’s bank activity. And thus the relevancy is revealed: Yes. In this instance, you are to Iceland as the ticket attendant is to the owners of those cars, moved out of no fault of their own. The Icelandic people should NOT have to personally foot the bill following the decline of a bank that HAPPENED to be working out of their country. A rise in tax by 99 euros a month is a sharp increase that the people ARE going to miss, particularly with the world in this global economic crisis. You would be asking citizens for money they cannot spare, particularly those made redundant. From a personal point of view, if the foot were on the other shoe and Britain were expected to pay £89.65 (99 euros based on the current euro to pound conversion rate), I wouldn’t be able to afford my study, would go into debt and not be able to live comfortably. Whichever way you look at it, these deductions are unfair.

At this time, I wish to implore you to consider a more compassionate alternative that doesn’t penalise the Icelandic people.

Yours Concernedly,

Sophia Ho Chee

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