I am still trying to work out what this letter means. It seems to refer to the fact that the UK introduced a minimum wage for apprentices in October 2010, and this reduced the number of apprenticeships available. Germany doesn’t have a minimum wage. I find it hard to decide whether a minimum wage is a good thing – probably – Wikipedia gives arguments on both sides – but I wonder what it can be like to be so certain of what is right as many Telegraph letters (the column on the right currently links to an article by Boris Johnson headed Snooty Europhiles should be forced to crawl in penance. – Europhile here refers to the euro currency, not the EU, although reading the article raises doubts).
But back to Sir Cyril. He praises Germany.
Because we have a common law legal structure, our law evolves to incorporate EU rules and these are rigorously enforced by our officials.
The result, for example, is that the absurd health and safety rules on young apprentices introduced by the EU have been allowed to reduce dramatically the number of apprenticeships, especially in small firms.
By contrast, in mainland Europe, which follows a Roman law structure, under which the central government makes the decision on whether rules should be enforced, such EU rules are frequently ignored.
Now there is quite a lot of case law in Germany – I’ve banged on about this before – not least by the Bundesverfassungsgericht – the Federal Constitutional Court – which can correct the government’s legislation. It is true that recently Frau Merkel has said that the Court might find it unconstitutional for Germany to bail out other countries, but it doesn’t always work the same way.
However, Sir Cyril has considered the Federal Constitutional Court:
In Germany there is a constitutional court which allows the 16 German Länder to opt out of European rules of which they do not approve.
Ah. I haven’t yet pinned down what decision this relates to, but I feel that the case is somewhat overstated.
He next turns to the Realschule, which he says offers a first-rate training for future German engineers, including providing apprenticeships. This can’t be quite right, can it? Realschule is closest to the rarer UK secondary technical school, and is part of secondary education. The colleges that do apprenticeship training are the Berufsschulen.
Sir Cyril was educated in the UK and USA, and has many honorary degrees too.