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Straight Talking - April 2011

Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Strasbourg

Please feel free to distribute this newsletter, or to quote from it. It is primarily written for Conservative Party members and activists in the East Midlands, but may also be of interest to others concerned about developments in the EU. If you receive the newsletter second-hand and want to go onto the
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The United States of Europe

My good friend and colleague Dan Hannan recently wrote a piece comparing the Constitutions of the USA and the EU. It's a gem, and I have to share it with you:

"The U.S. Constitution, with all its amendments, is 7,200 words long. The EU Constitution, now formally known as the Lisbon Treaty, is 76,000.

"The U.S. Constitution, in particular the Bill of Rights, is mainly about the liberty of the individual. The EU Constitution is mainly about the power of the state.

"The U.S. Declaration of Independence, which foreshadowed the constitutional statement, promises 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' The EU's equivalent, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, guarantees its citizens the right to strike action, free health care, and affordable housing.

"The U.S. Constitution came into effect only following ratification by specially convened assemblies in eleven of the member states, with the remaining two, North Carolina and Rhode Island, falling into line soon afterward. . . . In 2005, the EU Constitution was put to the vote in two of EU's founding states, France and the Netherlands. Both rejected it: by 54 percent and 62 percent respectively. On June 12, 2008, Ireland voted on the text. Once again, it was rejected. And, once again, the EU brushed aside the rejection and pushed ahead regardless.

"Where the U.S. Constitution was based on empowering the people and controlling the state, the EU Constitution was based on empowering the state and controlling the people.

"The U.S. Constitution begins, 'We, the People . . .' The EU Constitution, in the form of the amended European Treaties, begins, 'His Majesty the King of the Belgians.'

"The EU is a depressing example of what the United States might turn into: a federation that is prepared to sacrifice prosperity for the sake of uniformity."

ECR Group: A big Welcome for Anna Rosbach

It's taken longer than I'd hoped to see growth in our new ECR group, but in March we were delighted to welcome Anna Rosbach, previously with the Europe of Freedom & Democracy Group (which includes UKIP). Anna was elected to the parliament as a member of the Danish People's Party, having previously worked for many years for MEP Mogens Camre. I have known Anna for quite a long time. She's a Vice-Chairman of the Korea delegation, of which I'm also a member, and we've travelled to Korea together. She's on the Environment Committee, and was one of the MEPs travelling to the Cancun climate conference last December, as was I.

The left-wing media in the UK take a pretty dim view of the Danish People's Party, and are happy to drag up alarming quotes about it from the wilder shores of the internet. But as Dan Hannan has rightly pointed out, you can find embarrassing quotes from just about any party at all -- including those in the big groups like the EPP and the European Socialists. Anna had been feeling increasingly uncomfortable about some of the more strident positions taken by her colleagues in the Danish People's Party, and has been happy to leave it and to join us in the ECR group. She has signed up to our "Prague Declaration", setting out the principles of the group. I know her as a reasonable, moderate, sensitive and hard-working MEP, and I am delighted she has come to join us. Welcome, Anna.

Her arrival has had one curious result. In the European parliament, precedence amongst groups -- the pecking order for speakers -- is determined simply by numbers. Previously the ECR was the fifth group, but only one member behind the Greens. So now we're fourth equal (after the EPP, the Socialists and the Liberals). We now have a working agreement with the Greens that we'll alternate. They'll go first for one Straz week, we'll go ahead of them for the next, and so on.

But watch this space -- we may not be fourth equal for long.

A preposterous and deliberate lie

(April 5th): I've just got back from a plenary session where Council President ("all the charisma of a wet rag") Rumpy Pumpy, came out with a proposition which fairly took my breath away. Recounting the EU's recent achievements, he said "The EU moved decisively on the Libyan problem. But for prompt EU intervention, there would have been a massacre in Benghazi". Honest. I'm not making this up.

It may be unparliamentary language, but I was so shocked I shouted "Liar" at the top of my voice. The Libya initiative was a bilateral, intergovernmental deal between Cameron and Sarkozy, who managed to bring in a (rather reluctant) president Obama, plus NATO and the UN. It had nothing to do with Brussels. To describe this as "prompt EU intervention" is beyond parody. But it gives a chilling insight into the Brussels mindset.

Job Creation?

I am indebted to Mark Duchamp of "Save the Eagles", an indefatigable campaigner against wind turbines, for the following.

He quotes a story by John Ross saying that 13,000 jobs could be created in Scotland if we decided to store all the CO2 from Scotland's power stations beneath the rocks of the Moray Firth, under the sea. This is known as CCS -- "Carbon Capture and Storage". It's a modish green fantasy as we pursue the objective of reducing CO2 emissions. Mark comments:

"In the same vein of thought, breaking all the windows in the UK would create (say) 3,000 jobs. Breaking all bicycles would create (say), 30,000 jobs. Breaking all cars would create (say), 500,000 jobs. Destroying all homes would create (say), 3,000,000 jobs. Having another world war would create (say), 8,000,000 jobs.

"So, what the heck are we waiting for?" (Asks Mark)

The truth is, they had this sorted in the eighteenth century, when the plan for job creation was to have one group of men digging holes and another filling them in. About as useful as CCS.

Meantime a number of new reports give the lie to Chris Huhne's fairy-tale about "green jobs". Green jobs raise the price of electricity and so suppress competitiveness and growth and prosperity. They therefore cost real jobs in the real economy. According to Verso Economics, every green job in Scotland is costing 3.7 real jobs. Not such a good deal.

Taking the People's Pledge

If you haven't already visited the People's Pledge website I urge you to do so. The campaign to call for a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU has gained some serious momentum since being introduced mid-March.

The case is simple: The British people haven't had a referendum on EU membership since 1975. At that time even I thought that membership of the "Common Market" was good for trade and jobs. I'm afraid I voted "Yes". Since then, however, the EU has mutated from a trade agreement into a proto-state which is sucking the life-blood out of our democracy -- and out of our economy. No fewer than five separate treaties have been ratified without public consent or legitimacy; expanding the powers of Brussels at the expense of British sovereignty.

The pledge simply says that you will not vote in the next General Election for any candidate who has not promised to call for (and vote for) a referendum on EU membership. It does not require your MP (or Conservative candidate) to take a position one way or the other on membership -- merely to support a referendum. In this way it rather cleverly gets round the Party's proscription on Better Off Out (MPs who support Better Off Out, like Douglas Carswell, cannot be offered front bench positions).

New ECR President makes a cracking start

Last month I had mentioned that our group in the Parliament had elected a new President. I was delighted to support our Czech colleague Jan Zahradil for the job. He's a sound conservative, although not espousing the strident religio-conservative views of some of our Eastern European friends. He is also, as it happens (and to the horror of the Guardian), a climate-sceptic, having been a close colleague of the excellent Czech President Vaclav Klaus.

Jan's first opportunity to make a mark came last month in the Conference of Presidents (the committee of group leaders in the parliament). He touched on the Irish financial crisis, cautioning against it being made a pretext for a Euro-Tax; he spoke of the failings of the European Action Service (EU Diplomatic Service) to achieve anything in Libya; and advised the Commission not to exploit the recent tragedy in Japan to halt developments in nuclear energy (our best bet for establishing energy independence).

Jan's comments can be summed up as such, "Don't expect slow moving, wasteful and unnecessary intervention from Brussels to solve every problem that arises. Individual nations must be allowed to look out for their own interests as well as the interests of strategic partners".

A very clear statement of the ECR's raison d'être.

Corruptible MEPs?

A scandal has broken within the European Parliament over a handful of MEPs accepting payment for illegal influence over lawmaking. Three MEPs (none British) have resigned, while predictably maintaining their innocence, after an article published in the Sunday Times exposed their willingness to enter a contract as a "Consultant" with an undercover journalist posing as a lobbying firm. In one case a Romanian MEP had even the audacity to invoice the fictitious clients for €15,000 after submitting their proposed amendments in committee.

Much of the debate in Parliament occurs in committees. Most MEPs sit on more than one committee -- I'm on the Unemployment Committee and the Petitions Committee. Since committees have a big influence on EU legislation, they are a natural target for outside influence. Lobbying firms contact members regularly in an effort to gauge their opinions and influence their decisions. Of course it is quite right -- indeed essential -- for MEPs to listen to the views of those affected by legislation. But it is both wrong and corrupt for MEPs to accept any reward or payment for moving amendments or pushing a lobbyist's position.

Over seventy MEPs were contacted in this media sting, including a number of Brits. I am glad to say that none of my compatriots was prepared to take the bait. As for those who did (two Socialists and a member from the EPP group), they've already lost their jobs.

I got the call asking if I would be prepared to offer advice to a "Russian Businessman". I replied in writing that I should be happy to offer him, as a courtesy, a short general briefing on the parliament, but that I was not interested in any fee arrangement or paid consultancy. I heard no more.

The Sunday Times should really have headlined this story "Great majority of MEPs refuse bribe", perhaps with a subhead "A Romanian? Corrupt? Surely not!".

George Monbiot sees the light!

I have always been a proponent of Nuclear Energy as an essential component of our energy security. Given the rising cost of fossil fuels, coupled with the ever-looming culture of climate hysteria, the need for nuclear has never been greater. Even some environmentalists and Greens had grudgingly conceded that maybe nuclear was a necessary evil in the search for a low-carbon future.

But of course the tragedy in Japan has turned all this thinking on its head, and led to a revival of anti-nuclear sentiment. Media outlets the world over have been stoking these fears to the point where some European governments have placed a moratorium on further development in the field. I was concerned that no one seemed willing to add a note of common sense to the discussion, until I found a piece by: George Monbiot in the Guardian. Yes. You read that right. George Monbiot. The Great Moonbat.

He said that his stance on nuclear had been changed by Fukushima. I read on, expecting the worst. But I was astonished to see the following:

"A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami.....yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation".

He went on to conclude that maybe nuclear was, in fact, a whole lot safer than he had feared. As the Good Book says, "There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth". I wonder if I can persuade George to join me in campaigning against wind farms?

Calling for humane husbandry in Korea

As a long-time member of the European parliament's Korea delegation (and a former resident of Seoul, 1990/93), I have taken a great interest in Korea's development, and I have stood back in amazement at their rapid economic progress. They are a wonderful people and I very much enjoy my occasional visits to Korea.

Nonetheless they remain very different in terms of culture, and that includes their treatment of animals. They still (for example) eat dog, something which we in the West would not do and find repugnant (and no, I never ate dog while I was there. Might I have eaten it unwittingly, you ask? No, because it's seen as a great and expensive delicacy. You would no more eat dog without knowing in Korea than you would eat caviar without knowing in Paris).

Recently I and many of my colleagues were upset by reports from Korea that in response to an outbreak of foot & mouth disease, the culling methods used failed to meet basic standards of animal welfare. Reports suggested that pigs were being buried alive (of course I am not in a position to confirm this).

I have now written, along with other members of the Korea Delegation, to the South Korean Minister for Food and Agriculture expressing our dismay at this news and asking for reassurance that Korea will abide by WHO guidelines for humane slaughter of sick animals. Korea is a WHO member. I look forward to the Minister's reply.

Quote of the Month:

"The UK is more than a star on someone else's flag".
Mark Reckless MP

Recently on the Blog

In addition to stories on many of the visits I've made, I've done a number of pieces:

The final nail is driven into the Climate Change coffin.

My participation in the "Crazy Hats" Walk for Breast Cancer (including an amusing photo).

A plea to Sign the People's Pledge.

Nuclear Energy: STILL the safest mainstream energy generating technology.

It was bound to happen - Earthquakes are being blamed on Global Warming.

A meeting with the US Special Envoy on North Korean Human Rights.

A tête-à-tête with the Dept of Work & Pensions

I just had a quick chat with the Department of Work and Pensions regarding my deferred UK old age pension (I am supporting Iain Duncan Smith's proposition that we want to work beyond the statutory retirement age). They asked me, inter alia, whether I was claiming "other benefits"; whether I needed letters in large print format for ease of reading, and whether I had been to prison.

In case you're wondering, the answers were No, No and No.


That's all from Strasbourg for April, but please check out my blog, and this website for regular updates.