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Straight Talking - April 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.


At every General Election there will be politicians queuing up to tell you that this one is the most important for a generation. So why is 2005 really important? In my view, because it determines what government will handle the aftermath of a British NO vote on the EU Constitution, and therefore decide whether we (and our children and grandchildren) will live as free men and women in a free and democratic country, or whether Britain will become an off-shore province in an alien country, governed by unaccountable and anti-democratic institutions.

On May 5th, you get to choose.

News stories from March 15th

90% of consumers in the euro-zone believe that the switch to the euro has pushed up prices, says the European Commission (Daily Telegraph).

The French government of Chirac and Raffarin is set to give in to inflationary public sector wage demands in order to sweeten the public mood ahead of the Constitutional referendum on May 29th, and increase the chance of a YES vote (FT).

A leaked memo from Jules Muis, former Director-General of the Commission's internal audit service, damns the EU's "sordid accounting", and vindicates Marta Andreasen, the whistle-blower who worked with Chris Heaton Harris to expose fraud in the Commission (DT).

So that's the EU. It's beyond reform. It deserves to be put out of its misery.

The Real Alternative?

The Lib-Dems, bizarrely, are describing themselves as "The Real Alternative". But when we wake up on May 6th, we won't see Charles Kennedy on the steps of Downing Street. Still less will we see Robert Kilroy-Silk, or the leader of UKIP (whoever he is).

We will see either Tony Blair or Michael Howard.

Tony Blair, who wants to scrap the Pound, join the euro, sign up to the EU Constitution and transfer massive new powers to Brussels. Or Michael Howard, who wants to keep the Pound, oppose the Constitution, and start bringing back powers from Brussels.

If you're inclined to a euro-sceptic position, it's a no-brainer.

We know there are some natural Conservative voters who voted UKIP last June. Let's face it -- there were some Conservative Councillors and officials who voted UKIP last June, to "send a message" to the party leadership.

I'd like to remind those voters of the point made by Tim Collins at our Spring Conference in Brighton: "If you want to protest against Tony Blair, you can vote for any old party. But if you want to replace Tony Blair, you have to vote Conservative".

Why we should support the EU Constitution...

According to French Justice Minister Dominique Perben, "We have finally obtained this Europe à la Française that we have awaited for so long -- this constitutional treaty is an enlarged France". So now you know.

...and how we pay for it

The Labour government has insisted that not a penny of EU money will be used for propaganda in the forthcoming UK referendum on the Constitution. So I was interested to find a paper from DG Information showing the € 140,000 has been allocated to the European parliament's London office for "Information activities related to the Constitution". I have written to Dermot Scott at the London Office asking to see what material he produces, and warning that we will look closely at it for signs of bias. And I passed the paper to The Sun.

On March 15th I was urgently summoned as an "extra" to a vote in the Budgets Committee (of which I'm not a member). We voted against a motion to provide €7 million for "information" on the Constitution. We lost, 15 to 10. This is the money which will not be used in the UK -- but the EU has more than one budget line, and more than one way of skinning a cat.

A distinguished Spanish MEP Mr: Vidal-Quadras argued that it would be used for "information, unbiased, pure and simple, dry as dust". He seemed a bit miffed when I laughed. But the worrying thing is that the EU can produce highly partisan and contentious statements and insist, with a straight face, that they're "impartial".

An example. Even the Daily Telegraph has said, more than once, that the Constitution is designed to "facilitate decision-making in an enlarged EU". Supporters of the Constitution insist that this is a simple, unbiased fact. Yet we know (if only because the German Europe Minister said so) that the Constitution is "The Birth Certificate of the United States of Europe", that it "provides a framework for ever-closer union". To suggest that it does nothing more than tidy-up decision-making is therefore deceit on a grand scale.

Quote of the month

Tim Collins in Brighton again, in his role as shadow Education Secretary: "Labour and Lib-Dems want to save failing schools. We want to save the children who are being failed by the schools".

Quote of the month 2

"It is easier to persuade the public of a simple lie, than a complicated truth"

I heard this on the BBC's Farming Today, early one morning in March. I can't identify the name of the speaker, but I thought the quote contained a profound insight. They were talking about GM foods.

Simple lie: "Frankenstein foods" are a threat to the environment and to the human race

Complicated truth: GM technology is no different in principle from the selective breeding of plants and livestock which the human race has undertaken for thousands of years. GM crops can help the environment by dramatically reducing the need for pesticides. They also offer third-world farmers the opportunity to feed their families, and to grow surplus food which they can trade. Failure to develop GM could cause huge economic damage, causing Britain to lose out on one of the key technologies of the 21st century.

Another good example is Labour's zero-sum tax fallacy.

Simple lie: Tory tax plans mean cuts and closures

Complicated truth: Lower tax rates promote entrepreneurialism and economic growth. They foster investment, and inward investment. They reduce both the incentive and the opportunity for tax avoidance. Countries with low tax/flat tax regimes find that far from cuts and closures, tax revenues are maintained or increased. Low taxes deliver increased prosperity and better funding for public services. That is why low tax rates are not just electoral window-dressing. They are a moral and economic imperative.

A busy week

On Monday April 4th I went to Brussels. Tuesday 5th saw me in Bexhill, Sussex, addressing a meeting of the local branch of the Democracy Movement. Wednesday, back in Brussels. On Thursday, I flew to Sofia, Bulgaria, via Frankfurt, for a group bureau meeting, and on Friday back to UK, via Munich. And on Saturday I went to London for a rally against the Constitution in the Conway Hall, Holborn.

In Sofia, local Bulgarian politicians told us that their judiciary was politically appointed and endemically corrupt, that verdicts in their courts are often determined by bribes. I recounted this on Saturday at the anti-Constitution rally, and reminded the audience that if all goes to plan, Bulgaria will join the EU in 2007. Then, under the European Arrest Warrant, British citizens may be arrested in the UK and sent at the whim of a Bulgarian magistrate to face trial in Sofia, under their corrupt legal system.

How could our government have allowed this to happen? How did it come to fail so comprehensively in its primary duty to protect the rights of British citizens in our own country? How can it expect to get re-elected on May 5th?

At last, a good piece of EU legislation?

We currently have something going through the parliament called the Services Directive, which is as near as it gets to a good piece of EU legislation. It reduces red tape (no, honestly!), and makes it much easier for service companies, often small and medium sized businesses, to open up across Europe. It will promote growth and employment. It will reduce or eliminate the black market in services. Indeed it reflects very much the objectives we thought we were voting for in 1975 -- free trade in a Common Market.

So guess what? Ever fearful of competition and open markets, the left are up in arms! The Trade Unions hate it! Chirac and Schroeder have demanded it be withdrawn! I attended a meeting of the SME Union (Small and Medium Enterprises) today, and we published a paper endorsing the measure, but we're in a beleaguered minority.

What is particularly touching and funny is that Chirac fears that the unpopularity of the measure with the French left may jeopardise the result of the French Constitutional referendum on May 29th. The Services Directive may yet kill two birds with one stone.

Europe's birth-rate bombshell


Over the next fifty years, fertility rates suggest that while America, India, and China will grow significantly, Europe's population will decline by almost 10%. The working age population (WAP) of the Eurozone will have fallen from 203m to around 160m. Assuming that the same proportion of this WAP will be in work (62%) then as now, this implies a fall in the workforce from 127m to roughly 100m. The Eurozone will, in effect, lose 27m workers while simultaneously gaining 35-40m pensioners.

These are just a few of the issues explored in a new brief by the New Frontiers Foundation
www.new-frontiers.org/home/home.aspx, a London based think tank. Europe's Demographic Decline www.new-frontiers.org/mediacentre/EuropesDemographicDecline.pdf examines the 'scale of the demographic decline of the EU and the impact this will have on the economies of Europe.'

Losing the lead in Europe?

A senior private sector economist fears that British policy heralds a return to "the English disease" at just the time when Germany is recognising the failure of its high-tax, high-regulation approach and is making the first tentative steps to reform. Lorenzo Codogno, Bank of America's eurozone economist, said that grim headlines from Germany disguise radical restructuring which is underway. Mean­time a complacent Britain is frittering away the reforms of the eighties and nineties.

In the sixties and seventies, Britain was "the sick man of Europe". But with Margaret Thatcher's reforms in the eighties, coupled with growing sclerosis on the continent under the European social model, the tables were turned. British per capita GDP, then well below Germany, is now 9% ahead.

The risk is that with Gordon Brown's tax rises and massive spending, and the adoption of ever more EU legislation, the tables could turn again. If Brown is looking for a legacy after his unusually long period at the Treasury, it may well prove to be "The loss of Britain's competitive advantage".

Stupid and outrageous legislation

The EU is pushing its "Charter of Fundamental Rights" (an integral part of the Constitution) which guarantees, amongst other things, the right to work and the right to free speech. Meantime we are voting on the Working Time Directive, which restricts the right to work, and considering the "Health Claims" regulation, which prohibits free speech, at least in so far as it applies to food manufacturers making true, proven and validated claims on their products.

Sadly the Women's Institutes, which so badly got the wrong end of the stick on the chemicals directive, are now lobbying in support of this ruinous proposal.

I have just received a letter from the Macular Disease Society pointing out that the regulation would put an end to their cooperation with health food manufacturers, and do them huge damage. I shall vote against the regulation. But I expect it will get through anyway.

British Declaration of Independence

There's an organisation out there seeking to get a majority of parliamentary candidates to sign up to a declaration that if elected, they will promote the independence of their country. Their hearts are in the right place, although I tend to sympathise with a parliamentary candidate who is prepared to make his/her own statement, but a bit reluctant to sign up to someone else's commitment -- especially one as detailed as this.

But I'm always prepared to give a plug to those who believe in their country. Find them on www.bdicampaign.org

Wolfowitz to head World Bank

President Bush has nominated Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defence, to head the World Bank. The screams of anguish from the compassion industry (including our own Clare Short) are as hilarious as they are predictable. Wolfowitz is a neo-con. He is also a very distinguished civil servant and diplomat, and has experience in developing countries -- he was US Ambassador to Indonesia. He will bring a much needed bit of hard-headed common sense to the job. I'd back him against Clare Short any day.


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