What's New
Speeches & Articles
Newsletter - Jul 2012
Contact Information
Photo Album
Parliamentary Highlights
MEPs' Transparency

The Freedom Association
Visit the
Freedom Association

Straight Talking - May 2003

Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Brussels

Please feel free to distribute this newsletter or to quote from it. If you want to go onto the e-mail list please click here.

Local Council elections: something to celebrate!

Well done everyone! Although there were some striking variations from council to council, the overall results were excellent. Despite media efforts to belittle the achievement (apparently early editions of the Guardian announced "Local poll results a disaster for IDS"!), we actually became the biggest party of local government, and scored the largest share of the vote, admittedly on a low turn-out.

I'd be prepared to bet that we shall get the largest share of the vote again next year, in the Euro elections. So will we get the largest share in 2005, in the General Election? I believe we can, but we'll need to be disciplined and coherent -- and to work very hard for the next two years!

Hounds under threat

One of the pleasures of campaigning in the local elections has been the opportunity to catch up with friends from all over the region -- and meeting new ones. After canvassing with John and Sandra Barnes in Northamptonshire, and returning to their home for one of Sandra's excellent ham sandwiches, John took me along to the Grafton Hunt Kennels in the same village, and I met the huntsman Mickey Wills.

I also met as fine a pack of fox-hounds as you could hope to see. It is heart-breaking to think that if the government's thoughtless and prejudiced hunting bill goes through, these hounds -- and their blood-line -- will be lost forever. And this same government which plans to ban hunting has the cheek to ask the hunts to provide a fallen stock service to farmers -- because DEFRA has totally failed to plan for the EU's May 1st ban on on-farm burials.

For some reason, Mickey Wills also had a rescue greyhound, which is looking for a good home. I too have a rescue greyhound, and can testify how easy and rewarding the breed can be as a pet. If you feel you could give a greyhound a good home, call Mickey on 07801 863 846

Your choice: Do you want (A) The Euro, or (B) the NHS?

According to the Times (May 5th), the European Central Bank in its official Bulletin has warned that if Britain joins the euro, it will no longer be able to afford a free health service. What a magnificent gift to the NO campaign!

Many Conservatives might agree that we need to look at imaginative new ways to bring more money into the NHS -- but we want to do it on our own terms, not at the behest of the Frankfurt bankers. And Sun readers will not be impressed at having to give up the NHS for the euro.

Commission grab for energy

On April 29th I attended a public hearing on Energy Security, in the Industry Committee in Brussels. The Commission has a proposal to harmonise energy markets across the EU in the name of security of supply.

Six industry experts spoke with one voice: the Commission had created a solution in search of a problem. There is the International Energy Agency which already performs this function rather successfully. After all, we've just had strikes in Venezuela, a dodgy election in Nigeria, a war in Iraq and a nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula, all within few short months, and so far I haven't seen any petrol queues.

A Green MEP, Mr. Claude Turmes from Luxembourg, said he thought the Commission was using the energy security issue to establish an EU competence in energy where no basis exists in the treaties -- and I think Mr. Turmes is right (for once).

I attacked the Commission for talking in terms of price intervention rather than security of supply, and for totally failing to do a cost-benefit analysis on their proposal.

We are told so often that in an interconnected world, a single nation by itself cannot achieve its objectives. The implicit subtext is "so we'd better get the EU to do it". But in this case, as in so many others, the answer is already out there, not in the EU but in a global organisation that is working, all things considered, rather well.

The MEPs' survey

The British Tory MEP delegation has sent a questionnaire on European issues to constituencies up and down the land. An early draft included the question "Do you think Britain should leave the EU?". This question was excluded from the final draft because of the sensitivities of some of our more EU-friendly colleagues -- perhaps afraid of what the reply might be.

But my good friend the Noble Earl of Stockton MEP had already sent out his own questionnaire to party members in his South West constituency, and had over 3000 replies. He included the question, and was rather surprised when over 80% of party members responding said Britain should leave the EU.

While canvassing in one East Midlands constituency (which I shall not name), I heard that their political forum had discussed the questionnaire -- and a number of members had said "It ought to have a question on leaving the EU".

It is not yet Party policy to withdraw from the EU. But it is, perhaps, an idea whose time is coming.

Korea Visit

During April I went with my friend and colleague Nirj Deva, a South East MEP, on an interparliamentary delegation to South Korea. While we were there, the unsuccessful tripartite meeting between North Korea, the US and China was taking place in Beijing.

I had the opportunity to visit Pan Mun Jom, the Armistice village in the D-M-Zee (Demilitarised Zone), and actually to cross the line in one of the truce buildings and stand for a moment on NK territory. The Americans call the DMZ "Freedom's Final Frontier", and with good reason.

North Korea is the world's most reclusive, repressive and irrational state, and it is frightening that they now claim to have a nuclear weapon. Their population of 22 million is close to starving, and torture and murder are common-place. The régime seems to have no purpose beyond its own survival, and it thinks the best way to survive is to have a nuclear deterrent.

For an analysis of the crisis, please see my article "Seoul, a city held hostage".

We also discussed EU-Korea trade relations, including the semiconductor issue -- coincidentally, on the very day that the EU Commission placed a 33% counter-vailing duty on Korean semi-conductors as a retaliation for state aid to the industry in South Korea. I spent four years working in Korea (1990 -- 94), and was able to look up old friends to get personal briefings on several industries, including alcoholic beverages and pharmaceuticals.

An Irish legend

I awoke in Brussels on April 30th to hear BBC World Service doing a piece on the Czech Republic. They were trying to draw a comparison between on Czechs and the Irish, on the rather tenuous grounds that the Czechs apparently feel Celtic, and are fans of Irish pubs and Riverdance.

The BBC simply asserted -- without discussion or analysis -- that the Irish "economic miracle" was the result of EU membership, so the Czechs could expect to do equally well in the EU.

Of course the EU has dumped truck-loads of money on Ireland. Ironically Ireland's net annual receipts from the EU have been about the same as the UK's net contributions. We could cut out the middle-man and just write an annual cheque for £3 billion to Dublin.

But according to my good friend Patricia McKenna, an Irish MEP, a much greater factor has been US investment. Ireland receives more US inward investment per capita than any other country. A recent study showed that 80% of US investors in Ireland had CEOs with Irish connections. So they come for family reasons -- and of course for the English language.

Another factor is the currency. About the time Ireland joined the EU, it also broke the link between the Irish Punt and the £ Sterling. Many economists believe that having their own interest rates and monetary policy was a major factor in Ireland's success. Joining the euro has reversed that advantage, and Ireland is already feeling the pain of inflation from having the wrong interest rate.

Needless to say, I was immediately on to the BBC complaints line -- which (in case you'd forgotten!) is 0870 0100 222.

The Axis of Weasel: EU defence plans

Four EU countries (or you could say two and a bit), France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, have been meeting in Brussels this week (30/4) to make yet more plans for an EU Army. Of course we have had a whole sequence of plans -- Blair's Anglo-French St. Malo initiative, the EU Rapid reaction force, the NATO Rapid Reaction Force, and now the Luxembourg Force de Frappe.

The attempts to set up an EU army are characterised by plans, reports, strategies, command structures, general staffs, offices, bureaucracies -- everything you need for an effective fighting force except soldiers, guns, tanks, aircraft, ships and money. And of course the British armed forces, over-stretched as they are, remain the most credible and effective forces in Europe.

The main thing this latest meeting has achieved is to set in stone the divide between the "Old Europe" of France and Germany, and the New Europe of Britain, Spain, Italy, plus -- importantly -- many of the new accession states, who recognise the critical importance of the transatlantic alliance.

If we have finally recognised our real strategic priorities, if we have given up the vain search for a fuzzy European defence consensus that does not and cannot exist, that can only be a good thing. We can hold a celebratory wake for the demise of the EU's Common Foreign and Defence Policy.

Quote of the month: one for the farmers!

David Bowe, a Labour MEP, at a lunch-time briefing on the mid-term review of the CAP with Lord Whitty of DEFRA: "I'm here to represent the interests of the consumers, not the producers!"

I think I'm here to take due account of the interests of both farmers and consumers. Indeed at a deeper level, I hope the interests of British farmers and British consumers are not that far apart. We all want fresh, wholesome local food to be available to affordable prices. We all want the countryside to be well-maintained, and to be sustainable.

My assistant Katie Harries is doing some notes on the meeting, and we'll post them on the website.

The East Midlands: A Region of the EU

A leaflet with the above title arrived on my desk recently.

Yesterday (Sunday May 4th) I took the dog to Foxton Locks. It was a day from a child's picture book. Blue sky, green fields, white lambs, a red tractor. Bright water, gaily-painted canal-boats, a pair of geese proudly shepherding a dozen goslings.

This is no "Region of the EU". This is England. This is ours. We must not, may not, give it away.


Please remember to check my web-site at www.rogerhelmer.com for more background on current parliamentary business and other issues.