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Straight Talking - October 2004

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.

So what's wrong with the EU Constitution?

Give me twenty minutes, and I believe I can convince any reasonable person (that excludes the Lib-Dems!) that the EU Constitution would be a disaster for Britain. But when we get on the doorstep in the referendum campaign, perhaps in 2006, we don't get twenty minutes. May I suggest some useful sound-bites and one-liners to use when the time comes:

Everything that's wrong with the EU (they'll be nodding by now, because most people know there's a lot wrong with the EU!) will be set in stone.

Huge new powers will be passed to Brussels (we lose around 30 vetoes, depending how you count them).

The Constitution creates a Country called Europe (supremacy of EU law, legal personality).

It allows further integration, without limit and without the approval of national parliaments.

Gives Brussels control of foreign policy, justice and home affairs, immigration and asylum, transport, North Sea Oil.

The "Charter of Fundamental Rights" passes huge powers from elected representatives to unaccountable judges -- and arguably provides fewer rights than we currently have under our common law system.


It's official: the euro is failing

Under a headline "Eurozone crippled by single currency", the Daily Telegraph of September 23rd quotes an IMF report which says that "post-EMU trends could lead to an underlying and unsustainable deficit bias". The "stability pact" has failed, and euro has not encouraged fiscal prudence. Meantime a separate report from the United Nations lays to rest the myth that Britain has lost foreign direct investment (FDI) by staying outside the euro. "So far we haven't seen any evidence that EMU has increased foreign investment in the eurozone". And the DTI says that the UK was Europe's top FDI destination in 2003. Game, set and match to Sterling.


German Bundesbank fails to find evidence of euro/Single Market benefits

Some verbatim quotes from the Bundesbank report of October 2003:

"There has indeed been quite a sharp growth in Germany's trade with its EMU partners since 1999, but the increase in trade with countries outside the euro-zone has been even greater".

"The expected effects of monetary union (and at least in some respects, those of the single market) in boosting and redirecting trade -- which should have benefited mainly intra-trade -- are not immediately identifiable in these figures for Germany".

"Taking the period 1999 -- 2003 as a basis, the growth of the non-euro-area economies has been distinctly more rapid than that of Germany's partner countries in the euro area".

"In the case of German imports of goods, the other euro-area countries have, to a small extent, surrendered market share to non-euro-area countries".


In Summary: "German foreign trade with non-euro-area countries has increased more sharply than intra-trade with the euro-partner countries".


Not that web-site again!

Regular readers of this newsletter will know that it is punctuated by the phrase "Visit the web-site". But here's a special incentive to visit: a new picture of the Waterloo Monument.

Actually, it's all John Prescott's fault. I have tried very hard to find an image to represent the East Midlands. But there is no image that represents the East Midlands (I tried East Midlands airport but the picture looked like an ad. Then they changed its name anyway). And the reason that there is no natural symbol that represents the East Midlands, is that there is no such thing as the East Midlands. It is a purely artificial, bureaucratic concept that exists in John ("I've been dreaming of regionalisation since I was in short trousers") Prescott's mind.

So for my last post-card I used a picture of the Strasbourg parliament building. Now I need an up-dated card for the new parliament, and I am indebted to my West Midlands colleague and Chief Whip Philip Bradbourn, who suggested a picture at the Waterloo monument, just a few miles outside Brussels. Should please everyone except the French!


A new name for the East Midlands?

I am suggesting (tongue-in-cheek) that we might get people to warm to the East Midlands if we found a snappy new name that would resonate in hearts and minds. I've invited suggestions, but in the meantime, I've made my own suggestion to start the ball rolling: how about "Greater Rutland"? Why Rutland? Well consider:

Rutland is the geographical heart of the East Midlands. It is the only one of the six counties surrounded on all sides by the region.

I sense a deep affection (and not only in the county) for Rutland. It is a remarkably attractive corner of rural England. Small is beautiful. MULTUM IN PARVO.

The re-emergence of Rutland as a county is a tribute to the victory of local people's aspirations, identity and sheer dogged perseverance against the faceless bureaucrats who would extinguish an ancient county at the stroke of a pen. It is an example and inspiration to all of us as we fight Labour's regionalisation agenda.


Redwood breaks cover!

The best news in many a long year: John Redwood, newly promoted to the Shadow cabinet, has spoken out for a radical renegotiation of Britain's relationship with the EU. In the Financial Times of September 21st, he speaks of a "renegotiation package" in preparation, and of turning the EU into "something more closely modelled on what we originally joined". Presumably he would not have said this without Howard's backing. Maybe, just maybe, this could set the Conservative Party on the road to Downing Street. And it could set Britain on the road to independence and self-government. As Maggie Thatcher famously said in a different context, "Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice".


Labour on the run

At the start of a new parliament we have hearings for the candidates for the new European Commission, and I had looked forward to attending the hearing for Peter Mandelson. I am sure we should have had some choice questions for him. So you can imagine my disappointment when I found that his hearing was scheduled for Monday October 4th -- the first day of the Conservative Party Conference, when most MEPs and many of our staff were in Bournemouth.

Coincidence? Maybe. And maybe pigs fly. So now we have Alun Michael afraid to show his face for fear of the Countryside Alliance, and Mandelson cunningly avoiding Conservative MEPs. Looks like Labour is on the run!


Breeding for Britain!

September 21st: My constituent Patricia Hewitt MP has called for British women to have more babies, fearing that a demographic decline could threaten our economy in the long term. She has a point. Declining birth rates are a threat across Europe. In fact the continent is in much worse shape than the UK, with projected population declines of up to 30% by 2040.

But it ill becomes the government to start telling women how many children they must have. Least of all a government which has done its best to sideline and undermine the institution of marriage, and to remove all incentives to marry from the tax system.


Quote of the month:

The whole justification for liberal economics and free markets in twenty-seven beautifully crafted words:

"It is not through the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interests".  Adam Smith, 1723-1790, "The Wealth of Nations"


Quote of the month #2

From a Northamptonshire Conservative Councillor: "The press like to say we're split down the middle on Europe. But the fact is, we're split down the edge!".

A telling comment. There are still some europhile Conservatives, but precious few. They are a splinter group on the edge. And we can't let the tail wag the dog!


Hunting: a letter to the press

I issued the following letter to regional press on September 20th:

Dear Sir,

Much of the debate about hunting has centred on the idea that it is the sport of "toffs" -- although the Burns report, commissioned by the government, said otherwise.

Another factor driving the anti-hunt lobby, which has received far less debate, is a sort of urban squeamishness. We have children who don't know that eggs come from chickens, or that bacon comes from pigs. A generation raised on Disney and Bambi has forgotten that almost all animals in the wild are either predators or prey, or frequently both.

That same cuddly fox that the antis want to protect has itself hunted and killed hundreds of birds and small mammals.

Of course we cannot blame the fox for killing its prey, or the domestic cat for killing birds. They are simply doing what comes naturally. But equally, it is absurd to blame hounds, or hunts, for killing foxes. The ancestors of both dogs and people have hunted for a living for thousands of generations. To ban hunting is to defy nature.

According to a BBC report, the cost of policing a hunting ban will be 30 million a year, or 2,000 for every fox "saved". But of course, no foxes will be saved.

At the moment, many farmers and landowners tolerate a controlled fox population for hunting. If hunting goes, the tolerance will go too. Foxes will be shot, snared, trapped, poisoned and gassed. If the ban comes, MORE foxes will die, and their deaths will be more painful and protracted.

Yrs etc.



Turkey to join EU?

Outgoing enlargement Commissioner Gunther Verheugen has introduced his long-awaited report on Turkish accession to the EU. It contains all sorts of caveats and conditions and delaying clauses, but the bottom line is eventual Turkish accession, perhaps in ten years' time.

This is a highly contentious issue, even within the British Conservative MEP delegation -- where opinions are influenced in part by concern for Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot constituents.

The arguments in favour are straightforward. Turkey is the lynch-pin of NATO's eastern flank, and needs to be locked-in to the Western world. It should also be rewarded for its staunch support for the West, and for setting an example as a moderate, secular, democratic Muslim nation. It would be a shining example of the way in which Islam can be compatible with Western democratic values.

There are those who argue that the inevitable influx of very large numbers of Turkish workers, feared in Germany, would be the solution to Europe's demographic problems. It would rejuvenate and refresh our ageing populations. Others fear that it would alter forever the culture and traditions of Europe.

The arguments against Turkish accession relate to worries about human rights in Turkey -- for example the current proposal to criminalise adultery. There are also concerns about cost. Turkey is a very poor, very populous country. Its population, currently around 69 million, is rising fast. It is expected to be 83 million by 2020, and it looks set to have a larger population than any EU country soon after. Turkey raises fundamental questions about what Europe means -- if anything.

It's a tough call -- so where do I stand? If we had the kind of Europe I'd like to see -- essentially a free trade area, rather like the Common Market we thought we were joining in 1973 -- I'd be happy to welcome Turkey. And the Ukraine, and Israel. Let 'em all come. The more free trade the better.

But we have a political Union where foreign institutions make our laws. I am deeply unhappy that we in Britain are subject to laws made (in part) by 60 million Frenchmen and 90 million Germans, in institutions where our vote is down to around 10%, and will be eroded further by new countries. I am even more unhappy to think that our laws would be made by Turkey. If Turkey joins, it will have a bigger share of the vote than Britain. Turkey is fundamentally different from Britain (and from most of Europe) in terms of history, culture, religion, ethnicity, economy and aspirations.

By all means let's have free trade, co-operation, mutual respect and military alliance with Turkey. But let them make their own laws, and let us remain free to make ours.


Conclusion

Please remember to check this website for more background on current parliamentary business, full details of proposals being voted at the Strasbourg plenary session, and a host of other issues.

RFH