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Straight Talking - February 2005

Working for the post-EU Europe
Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Brussels

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 want to go onto the e-mail list please click here.

BREAKTHROUGH!

The following words appeared in the Daily Telegraph of January 25th, in a report on the Brussels reaction to Michael Howard's new policy on immigration: "Europe's intervention ... took Westminster aback. MPs and officials were unaware of how much national sovereignty on immigration and asylum had been transferred to Brussels".

At last they're being forced to confront what they have done. They are being forced to recognise that under EU rules we are no longer allowed to decide in Westminster to impose a fair and controlled immigration policy. Labour politicians should be embarrassed. But I believe that the public will be angry -- very angry -- when they realise that immigration is literally out of control.

So what will a future Conservative government do, when confronted by European rules and treaty commitments that prevent us doing what we think is right for Britain? First, we will seek to negotiate changes in the arrangements. But if those negotiations fail, we shall politely give notice of withdrawal from the provisions that are causing us problems. And if they pursue us through the ECJ, we shall simply advise the ECJ that we are no longer bound by the relevant treaties, and that we have withdrawn.

A defining characteristic of an independent nation is the right to control its borders. We must restore that right. At last, there is light at the end of the tunnel -- and this time it is not the on-coming train! There is a scent of liberty on the wind. We shall be a free nation again.


They said it!

Mark Leonard, a senior guy with the Centre for European Reform, a passionately pro-EU lobby group:

Europe's power is easy to miss. Like an 'invisible hand', it operates through the shell of traditional political structures. The British House of Commons, British law courts, and British civil servants are still here, but THEY HAVE ALL BECOME AGENTS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION implementing European law. This is no accident. By creating common standards that are implemented through national institutions, Europe can take over countries without necessarily becoming a target for hostility.

So now we know. The cat is out of the bag.


A Guide to the Constitution

A helpful 80-page guide to the EU Constitution comes from Stuart Sexton. It is available price 7 from The Education Unit, Warlingham Park School, Chesham Common, Warlingham, Surrey CR6 9PB, 01883 626844,


Working Time Directive

This directive was introduced in the UK surreptitiously, during the Major government. Clearly an employment issue, we thought it was covered by our Social Chapter opt-out. But the EU Commission insisted it was a Health & Safety measure, the ECJ agreed, and we were stuffed.

Now the socialists in the EU parliament -- led by British Labour MEP Stephen Hughes -- trying to get rid of our opt-out on the directive -- the last line of defence. We are about to tell workers they can't work, or at least not as long as they want to. I already knew that this would be a disaster for haulage, for health, for the hospitality industry, for agriculture. Now I've been lobbied by Sky TV and the British Chambers of Commerce, among others.

The latest industry is aggregates (sand and gravel to you and me). Because it's a heavy, low-value material, transport is a big element of delivered cost, so an increase in transport costs will make the industry uncompetitive. Many sites requiring aggregates are close to ports, and foreign aggregates delivered by sea will be cheaper than UK aggregates delivered by road. I have a copy of a letter from Peter Huxtable, Secretary of the British Aggregates Association in Hope Valley, Derbyshire, to Alistair Darling, asking for a "derogation".

There is some hope that a "blocking minority" in the Council may stop this one. We Tories will vote in the parliament to keep the opt-out, but we shall probably lose the vote.

It is a bitter irony that they promote a "Charter of Fundamental Rights" (in the EU Constitution), including the right to work, while passing laws that take that right away.


Afterthought on the fracas in Strasbourg

I wrote in my January newsletter about the appalling waste of money on the EU parliament's party to celebrate the YES vote on the Constitution, and the violence of the security service against NO demonstrators. A footnote:

When one of our colleagues remonstrated with a security guard, he got an astonishing reply: "They told me we cannot allow political activity within the European parliament". So what else is a parliament for, if not political activity?

The best thing that the YES side can find to say about the EU Constitution is that it doesn't make much difference. And when they say that, they're lying.


Democracy Movement

These guys have published an excellent ten-point summary of the implications of the EU Constitution on their web-site at www.democracymovement.org.uk


Quote of the month

Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the EU: "Europe's nations should be guided towards the super-state without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps, each disguised as having an economic purpose, but which will eventually and irreversibly lead to federation".


And a couple more quotes:

Never be afraid to try something new. Remember a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic.

And from the Retired Greyhound Trust web-site: "A greyhound is no more likely than any other dog to chase cats. But it is more likely to catch one".


Making progress in Washington

"Prospect", a political monthly, carried the following piece in its "Washington Watch" column in January.

"British Tories should not worry about Michael Howard being persona non grata at the White House, because the younger generation has finally figured out how the American right operates, and where and how to meet them. Three smart Tory MEPs -- Roger Helmer, Christopher Heaton-Harris and Martin Callanan -- were spotted recently at Grover Norquist's Wednesday morning meeting (in Washington) .... this is the general staff and communications node of American conservatism .... Euroscepticism is rapidly becoming the fashionable new idea for American conservatives. Now you know why".

Maybe we are doing something right! And I like "younger generation"!


January 20th: Inauguration Day

Eight a.m., and I am sitting at my Brussels desk wearing a bold Stars'n'Stripes tie, with scroll reading "One Nation under God". I have replaced my usual Union Jack lapel pin with a double pin of Union Jack and Old Glory. Should go down well on a TV debate which I shall be joining in a couple of hours. And I'm drinking coffee out of an "Inauguration Day" mug I picked up in Washington Dulles airport last month.

Good luck, George W. Here's to Four More Years!


Breakfast with the European Policy Centre (EPC)

On January 25th (my birthday!) I attended a breakfast meeting with the EPC.

This is a very pro-EU organisation, and it was addressed by Joaquin Almunia, the new Commissioner for Economic & Monetary Affairs. His subject was "The Lisbon Agenda and the Stability & Growth Pact".

I managed to get in the first question from the floor, and based on my notes I can give it to you virtually verbatim:

I'm Roger Helmer, a British Conservative member of the European parliament.

One of my colleagues in the British parliament in Westminster recently published an article in the Times newspaper about the Stability and Growth Pact. Its title was "No Stability, No Growth, No Pact".

Commissioner Almunia, you speak of "Structural problems" in the EU economy, but I am not sure you have identified the right ones. Surely the first problem is over-regulation. The Commission itself admits that the cost of regulation in the EU is much higher than in the USA. And month by month in the European parliament we pass new and damaging directives -- for example the Temporary Workers' Directive and the chemicals directive.

Then there is the euro itself, which has been hailed this morning as a success. Yet since its launch it has been more volatile than the British pound against a basket of international currencies. We boast of its strength, yet that strength is crippling EU exports.

Commissioner, you speak of the achievement of economic stability in the EU, yet it is the stability of the graveyard, with low growth and persistent high unemployment.

Is it not a fact that the member states have effectively ignored both the Stability and Growth Pact, and the Lisbon Agenda, for the past five years, and will continue to ignore it for the next five years? So what is the point of your efforts to reform these two policies?


His answer was circuitous and insubstantial, insisting that the euro was a success despite all the contrary evidence.


South East Asia challenges the EU

On Jan 18th I lunched with Ambassadors from South East Asian nations (ASEAN). I take a special interest in ASEAN and Korea, having spent a dozen years working there, on and off. We discussed the tsunami and the relief effort, and what the EU might sooner or later do.

One ambassador (for reasons of confidentiality I shan't say which one) was deeply suspicious that the EU might never deliver on its cash pledges. Apparently in many previous disasters, generous pledges have failed to materialise.

I mentioned that while were discussing what the EU might or might not do, we would do well to remember (in the week of the Presidential inauguration) that the USA had twenty ships and dozens of helicopters in-theatre and on-site within days, and that without their massive effort (ably assisted by forces from Australia and Malaysia), many in Aceh province in Sumatra would have starved.

When the conversation moved on to more general matters, two ambassadors were highly critical of the EU on free trade.

The USA, and India, China and Japan have been very active in seeking free trade deals in the rapidly growing economies of ASEAN, while the EU has dragged its feet. I know a little of this, because I worked on it with a previous ambassador from Singapore, and I had meetings with former Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy.

Lamy seemed to regard a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) as a sort of carrot offered by the "advanced" EU to the backward countries of Asia. Nothing could be further from the truth. For a start, they are not backward. Singapore's per capita GDP is ahead of most EU countries. And an FTA is a win-win deal. If the EU doesn't get on with it, we simply lose out to other more dynamic countries. Lamy also thought that the offer of an FTA was an incentive to ASEAN countries to follow the EU's pattern of integration. His attitude was almost colonialist. It won't do for the 21st century. Let's hope that Peter Mandelson, the new Trade Commissioner, does better.


European Commission backs hunting report

In an earlier newsletter, I mentioned that the EU Commission was so impressed by a report from FACE (the European hunting organisation), entitled "Hunting, an added value for biodiversity", on the environmental benefits of country sports that it set up a link on its web-site. I now have the details. Click here to visit the relevant page


Kilroy-Silk strikes again!

Question: What should you do if Kilroy Silk throws a pin at you?

Answer: Run like hell. He has a grenade in his mouth!

Described in the Leicester Mercury as "the perma-tanned pimpernel" (their journos had had great difficulty contacting him), he is now starting a new political party called "Veritas". A Telegraph editorial speculated that this was a mis-print for "Vanitas".


The 60th anniversary of Auschwitz

In January we had a debate in the EPP group on the parliament's resolution on the 60th anniversary of Auschwitz. About twenty minutes were spent on a couple of words. The Poles object to the phrase "Polish death camp", saying rightly that they were victims, not perpetrators, although of course Auschwitz is in Poland. The Germans were equally unhappy with "German death camp", and there were even objections to "Nazi death camp". Someone suggested "Hitler death camp".

Over dinner that evening, one of my colleagues reflected that perhaps we need a more general, less discriminatory and divisive adjective. Perhaps, he suggested, "European death camp"?


Nottingham University Politics Society

On January 28th I spoke to a meeting of well over 100 students at the Nottingham University Politics Society, on the subject of the EU and the Constitution. I got a much warmer reception than I anticipated (although the NU Conservative Club had assisted with the organisation). We sold 25 copies of my book "A Declaration of Independence", with all takings going to the tsunami appeal.


Conservatives Abroad: Malaga

On January 29th, I addressed Conservatives Abroad in the Restaurante El Relicario in San Pedro, Malaga. It was much the same speech as at Nottingham, only cut down from 45 to 20 minutes. A particular pleasure was that I met an old school friend, Derek Corbishley, at the dinner. He now lives in Malaga, and I had not seen him for forty years.


EMRA meeting: Jan 28th

As a result of my long-standing commitment to the Malaga meeting, I was unable to attend the EMRA meeting where the joint motion from myself and Chris Heaton-Harris calling for the disbandment of regional government was debated. As we rather expected, the motion failed. Most of the appointees enjoy their moment in the sun, and turkeys don't vote for Christmas.

Nevertheless, we got the headline we wanted. And we can all ponder on the difference between the appointees on EMRA, who vote to stay in place, and the voters of the North East, who voted 78/22 against the regional assembly.


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