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Straight Talking - July 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.


From July 3rd, my UK office will be moving from Blaby to:

11 Central Park
LE17 4PN
Phone: 01455 558447
Fax: 01455 558636

E-mail addresses, and Brux & Straz details, remain unchanged. The Press Office operation with Emma McClarkin will be moving from Nottingham to the same address in Lutterworth.

East Midlands MEPs take the referendum campaign to Brussels!

Chris and I have been enthusiastically supporting the Daily Mail's campaign for a referendum on the proposed EU Constitution. On the referendum day, June 12th, we had an official POLLING STATION notice outside my Brussels office, and a Daily Mail ballot box inside. British MEPs and staff took the opportunity to register their demand that the British people should be the final judges of whether to give up their sovereignty in a United States of Europe.

The final result of the poll was nearly 89% in favour of a referendum. We will keep up the pressure.

Study days in Copenhagen

The week of 22nd June saw a couple of hundred MEPs from our EPP-ED political group on our "Study Days", this time in Copenhagen. Are these events value for money? Probably not. Why do we have study days in various EU countries twice a year? Because it's yet another "convention" that we can't seem to get rid of!

A diplomatic incident

At a cocktail party at Denmark's National Museum, I stepped up to speak to group leader Hans Gert Pöttering. I wanted to challenge his repeated use of the term "European re-unification". When was Europe united to start with?

As we chatted, he introduced me to a chap standing next to him, but failed to introduce the other chap to me. So after a few moments, I asked "And what do you do?". He replied "I'm the Prime Minister of Denmark".

Al Capone and Prohibition

One evening in Copenhagen, Chris and I dined with Morgens Camre, an MEP with the Danish Peoples' Party (confusingly, NOT part of the EPP -- European Peoples' Party). After an agreeable evening at Morgens' lakeside house in the suburbs, he offered to drive us back to town, and went out to get the car. To our astonishment, "the car" turned out to be a 1934 Buick 4½ litre straight eight -- the sort of car that the bad guys drive in Hollywood gangster movies when they shoot-up the speak-easy. White wall tyres and running boards.

We got back to the hotel just as the coaches were disgorging other EPP-ED group members who had been on a dinner trip to Elsinore Castle (of Hamlet fame). The amazing Buick caused a minor sensation.

The EPP-ED group and the European Constitution

At the "Study Days", we debated a proposed resolution on the European Constitution. The group was commending the Giscard Convention's draft Constitution and demanding it be agreed by the IGC (in other words, by the Heads of Government). The debate was late on in the afternoon, and members thin on the ground. I spoke out robustly for the Conservative view on the Constitution, but apart from my intervention, the whole debate could have been happening on another planet.

I find it increasingly difficult to justify sitting with a group which is left-wing on social and employment issues, and is determinedly pro-integration. IDS has made it quite clear to the EPP that Conservative membership of the group cannot continue on the current basis beyond the 2004 election. I am becoming convinced that it should not continue at all.

The sceptical environmentalist

We had a lunch-time presentation in Copenhagen from Bjorn Lomberg, a professor at Aarhus University in Denmark, who has achieved fame as "The Sceptical Environmentalist". Starting out as a self-confessed "leftist-green", he was infuriated by an article by a US economist debunking many of the basic tenets of the green movement.

So he set his students to check the facts -- and surprise, surprise, he found that the US economist was right in every particular!

Energy and other natural resources are getting more abundant, not less. Average food consumption in the developing world has increased substantially over the last thirty years. The air in London is now cleaner than it has been since the seventeenth century. And so on.

Lomberg is not opposed to environmental action -- he is a keen proponent of alternative energy, for example. But he does argue that things are getting better, not worse. And that we should focus resources on activities that can make a difference. For example, the Kyoto Protocol would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, yet would make only a fifth of one degree difference to average global temperatures -- and that in a hundred years time! The same money would do far more good providing access to clean water world-wide, or researching renewables.

Read Matt Ridley's excellent article on Lomberg on the Spectator website at www.spectator.co.uk

Quote of the month (1)

Wilhelm Nölling is Professor of Economics at Hamburg University, and was formerly a Director of the German Bundesbank. In the Sunday Telegraph of June 8th he said:

"Certainly the more countries that join (the euro), the more ungovernable it will become. In that sense, the euro was born to die".

Quote of the month (2)

Matthew d'Ancona, Politics column, Sunday Telegraph, June 8th:

"And here's the final irony: having squandered the trust which he so painstakingly built up during the 90s, Mr. Blair now has about as much chance of leading this country into EMU as Osama bin Laden has of dining at the White House. I mean, would you buy a used euro from this man? ..... I am not sure that Mr. Blair knows it yet, but the issue is dead".

An aristocratic limerick by Alexander, Earl of Stockton

There once was a fellow called Hain
Whom most people found very vain.
He talked such a lot
Of complete tommy-rot
That Conventioneers thought him insane

Rebutting Bill Turncoat Dunn

Bill recently ran an article in the Lincolnshire Echo arguing that Britain was faced with a choice: either to be positive Europeans, hitching our wagon to the EU's twelve yellow stars, or to be "isolated and excluded", sitting in the corner and crying into our beer.

As usual, Bill offers us a totally false choice. The real choice is this: either we can remain a free, independent, prosperous, democratic global-trading nation. Or we can choose to become a mere off-shore province in an unaccountable, anti-democratic People's Republic of Europe -- the most over-governed, over-regulated, over-taxed and over-borrowed bloc in the world.

Read my full rebuttal (already submitted to the Lincs Echo)

That Constitution again!

I recently met a charming Conservative Councillor who is also a member of the EU's so-called Committee of the Regions. She had heard a presentation from the Italian ambassador, and had heard people saying that the draft Constitution "Contained a lot of Common Sense".

We should remember that the Committee of the Regions exists primarily as a propaganda medium for the EU Commission. For a Conservative view of the Constitution, I recommend the pamphlet "The European Constitution" by David Heathcoat-Amory MP (who was on the drafting Convention), published by the Centre for Policy Studies (CPF).

A short quote from the blurb on the back cover:

"The political landscape of Europe is about to be transformed by the arrival of a European Constitution. This will create a new Union endowed with greater powers than the existing EU. Far more decisions on foreign policy, criminal justice matters and the coordination of economic and employment policies will in future be taken in Brussels, not Westminster.

How did this happen? How a free country with a long history of parliamentary democracy come to submit itself to an external jurisdiction in this way? If Britain signs the Constitution, will the country remain self-governing in any real sense? Above all, can this be stopped, and if so, how?"

If you are at all concerned about the democracy and self-determination of our country, this is a "must read". Available price £7.50 from the Centre for Policy Studies, 57 Tufton St., SW1P 3QL. Phone 0207 222 4488. e-mail:

Support for farmers and country sports at the RSPCA AGM

On Saturday June 28th I attended the RSPCA AGM at the National Motorcycle Museum at Solihull, and I spoke on a motion about the welfare of battery hens. While supporting the objective of animal welfare, I said we should be careful that our measures did not force our farmers to face a flood of imports from countries with lower welfare standards.

And I managed to scandalise a section of the audience by working in a few comments in favour of country sports!

Inward Investment: the facts

Lib-Dem MEP Chris Huhne accosted me in the corridor recently in order to criticise the figures I've been quoting about inward investment into the UK. Like many pro-euro campaigners, Huhne has been arguing that Britain has been losing inward investment dramatically as a result of not joining the euro-zone.

Fortunately his high regard for his own opinion was not well-founded. The very next day, Ernst and Young, one of the UK's most respected consultancy and accounting companies, published their latest European Investment Monitor Report. It shows that the UK remains the top investment location in Europe.

Across Europe, inward investment has declined as a result of the global slow-down, and September 11th. But investment into the UK has declined less than it has in the euro-zone. Other non-euro countries have also done better than euro-zone countries.

Ernst and Young have blown apart the pro-euro myth that keeping the Pound means losing inward investment. If anything, the opposite seems to be the case.


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