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Straight Talking - September 2005 Second edition

Love Europe. Hate the European Union

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.

George Osborne goes flat tax!

George Osborne, our young Shadow Chancellor, has announced a review of taxation policy with special reference to the flat tax phenomenon which is sweeping across Europe. I have been following the development of flat tax, and I have been arguing for it in this newsletter and elsewhere. I am delighted that it is now on the Conservative agenda, and I have written to George to congratulate him.

Compared to our paltry offer of tax reductions before the last election, flat tax represents the sort of big idea we need to reclaim the initiative in this vital area. It is right in political terms, but it is also right in economic terms. This is a really exciting development which deserves our full support -- though the German election result shows it needs to be introduced with care!

I have mentioned to George Osborne a couple of points on flat tax and he has assured me that they will be taken into account

For more on flat tax, visit www.eftr.org

England wins the Ashes!

On Thursday 8th September, England Captain Michael Vaughan called on English people everywhere to join the Oval crowd at 10:25 a.m. in singing Jerusalem. Over in Strasbourg at that other Oval -- the exercise yard in the European parliament's gloomy round tower -- Chris and I joined other English MEPs and staff and sang Jerusalem unaccompanied at the top of our voices. One of the few good things about the exercise yard is its extraordinary acoustics, and the resounding echo made even our amateur attempts sound like the Glasgow Orpheus Choir.

Yorkshire Labour MEP Richard Corbett was watching the pre-match coverage on the television in his office. He could hear our rendering of Jerusalem outside his window, and told us that we were just about in sync with the Oval crowd.

Well done England. (And well done Zara Phillips for winning the European Three Day Event the day before!).

What Conservatives really think about Europe

My East Anglia colleague Geoffrey van Orden has undertaken a survey amongst party members in his region, and the results are striking. 656 members responded, and:

•   93% believe that Europe remains an important issue, despite the referendum results for the Constitution in France and Holland

• 77% disagree that "the party should stop talking about Europe and concentrate on other issues"

• 76% disagree that "Britain's relationship with the EU is about right"

• 78% agree that the party should remain strongly eurosceptic

• 91% agree that Britain should renegotiate our EU relationship in the direction of the Common Market we thought we were joining in 1973

• 69% say we should distance ourselves further from the European Peoples' Party in the EU parliament, and develop a more autonomous grouping (not surprisingly, this question attracted the highest "don't knows").

So why oh why is the Conservative delegation in Brussels making "rejoining the EPP" a pre-condition for restoring the Conservative whip?

What the European People's Party (EPP) really thinks about Europe

Remember that Conservative MEPs are linked to the EPP, and that the EPP leader Hans-Gert Poettering frequently speaks on behalf of the whole group, including the British Conservatives. Here is what he said in Strasbourg this week, direct from the newswires:

Leader of the European People's Party Hans-Gert Poettering said, "This Constitution is still on the table", and that "all those who think that this Constitution is no longer topical" are "wrong." He said it "will not be able to be applied in the days, or in the coming weeks, but we hope that after the French presidential election we will be in a new situation." Agence Europe quotes Poettering saying, "I am perfectly convinced that the only way that we will be able to react to this crisis of identity is if we affirm the values which unite us, in the European Constitution." He said Part II of the Constitution - the Charter of Fundamental Rights - should be safeguarded.

Bumper stickers make it to France

I have an e-mail from my good friend Mike Cazalet, a journalist from the East Midlands specialising in motor-cycling and camping issues. He took my "Love Europe, Hate the EU!" stickers to France, where they were well received and now adorn doors on a French camp-site. He tells me "everyone agrees with them".

And they will soon be in many more European countries, as euro-sceptic MEPs seem delighted with them. Mogens Camre of Denmark will put one on his 1934 Buick in Copenhagen.

To get your sticker, please send a stamped addressed envelope to 11 Central Court, Lutterworth LE17 4PN. Many people have asked about bulk orders, in which case they're available for 40p each. I have recently ordered the third thousand.

Timothy Kirkhope and Nigel Farage launch a written declaration

Seeking to justify his withdrawal of the whip, our delegation leader Timothy Kirkhope MEP has made great play of the fact that I shared a platform at a press conference with Nigel Farage of UKIP. Timothy conveniently fails to mention that we were only two out of eight MEPs on the platform, who came from a range of countries and parties.

Imagine my surprise when I saw a new "Written Declaration" (a bit like a Westminster Early Day Motion) signed by -- you guessed it -- Timothy Kirkhope and Nigel Farage. There were three others -- fewer than were on my platform

The Written Declaration (DC\577670EN.doc) calls for transparency in the European Council, and is an excellent thing in itself. But then the censure motion on Barosso was also an excellent thing! Farage seemed to get the lion's share of the media coverage, so to the casual observer it may seem that Timothy Kirkhope has underwritten a UKIP initiative. (See the photo of Kirkhope and Farage together).

It is in the nature of the Brussels parliament that there are occasions when you have to cooperate with those that generally you wouldn't support. But it seems that it's OK for some, not OK for others!

Builders' bottoms and barmaids' bosoms

On September 6th I spoke in plenary against the EU's proposed Optical Radiation Directive, which will make employers responsible for any sun-tan damage suffered by employees. This proposal has already been savaged in Bavaria, where it threatens the traditional low-cut costume of their barmaids, and in Britain, where brickies may be unable to take off their t-shirts in the sun.

This is the Nanny State gone mad. Brussels needs to recognise that grown-up people can make some decisions for themselves. I have had strong concerns expressed to me by, amongst others, the NFU and the Master Builders' Federation.

The measure would also create additional cost and uncertainty for employers, making them less competitive. The only people to benefit would be the compensation lawyers.

Quote of the month

"Fortitude is courage dug in. We need to make the bravery of the moment the habit of a lifetime".

Rev. Dr. Peter Mullen, The Freedom Association's Honorary Chaplain, writing on the London bombings in Freedom Today (July/August 2005)

Solidarity, 25 years on

In early September I was privileged to go to Gdansk, Poland, to join in the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Solidarity Movement, which of course played the major part in the downfall of the USSR and eventually the Berlin Wall.

We saw many movers and shakers past and present, including Lech Walesa, founder of Solidarity and later Polish president; Victor Yuschenko, President of Ukraine; Mikhail Saakashvili, President of Georgia -- and John Prescott. Well, it wouldn't be a show without Punch!

Gdansk is a charming old city, and well worth including on your tourist itinerary.

Towcester Vicar in jail over Council Tax

A retired vicar from Towcester, Northants, 71-year-old Alfred Ridley, is in Milton Keynes Jail for refusing to pay an inflation-busting council tax increase. In the USA, they have a thing called the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights (TABOR), which limits state tax rises to inflation (plus any population growth). Maybe it's time to look for the same thing here.

It's worth stressing that the local council (Sandra Barnes) has done exactly the right thing. Our quarrel is with the whole system of block grants and local authority funding -- not with this council, who are only doing what they have to do.

Some Edward Heath quotes

1972: "There is no question of eroding any national sovereignty; there is no blueprint for a federal Europe. There are some in this country who fear that in going into Europe we shall in some way sacrifice independence and sovereignty. These fears, I need hardly say, are completely unjustified

1989: The aim was, and is...ever closer political union. The means...were and are economic"

1990: In response to the question "Did you have in mind a United States of Europe in 1972?", "of course, yes"

So Ken thinks the EU issue has gone away?

The EU has been given the power to compel the national courts of its 25 Member States to fine or imprison people for breaking EU laws, even if a country's own Government and Parliament are opposed.

An unprecedented ruling on September 13th by the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg gives Brussels the power to introduce harmonised criminal law across the EU, creating for the first time a body of European criminal law that all Member States must adopt.

The judgment by the EU supreme court was opposed by 11 EU Governments --
Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, France, the UK, Spain, Portugal and Greece. But they couldn't stop it.

In principle the judgement gives the EU the power to impose criminal sanctions for all breaches of EU law. It greatly extends the power of the non-elected Brussels Commission, which would have the exclusive right to propose such criminal sanctions, to be adopted by majority vote of the Council of Ministers.

Traditionally the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) works hand in glove with the Commission, as both are supranational institutions that benefit from increasing supranational powers. In the words of one of its judges, the ECJ is a "court with a mission" -- that mission being to extend the supranational powers of the EU and its institutions to the utmost. The Commission's press release of yesterday welcoming the Court ruling may be read at

http://www.statewatch.org/news/2005/sep/ecj-environment-dec.pdf (requires Adobe reader)

Let's stop talking the Party down!

Ken thinks that the Conservative Party may be overtaken by the Lib-Dems (Daily Telegraph, Sept 19th). I think it's about time that senior Conservatives and leadership candidates stopped talking the Party down. It's time we stopped apologising. It's time we stopped talking about "the Nasty Party". It's time we stopped saying the Lib-Dems are poised to overtake us -- or the public will start to believe it.

We Conservatives have far more to be proud of than to apologise for. I believe that most Conservatives are genuinely concerned for their fellow-countrymen, and that few if any are "nasty". I believe that the Lib-Dems will never do better than third place. And I believe I shall live to see a Conservative Prime Minister in Downing Street (though I doubt if it will be Ken Clarke!).

Ken gets his facts wrong -- again

East Midlands Conservatives who saw the BBC1 Politics Show on Sunday Sept 18th may have been surprised to hear from Ken Clarke that I was no longer a member of the Conservative Party. Ken is of course just plain wrong. It's just his casual approach to the facts again, I'm afraid.

A job for an environmental/energy economist

I have a project, likely to take say four weeks of part-time work, for someone with relevant experience, who might be a post-graduate student with a special knowledge of economics, energy and environmental issues. An appropriate fee will be offered. If you think you fit the bill, please send me your resum้ on [email protected] . Thanks.

Celebrating a Conservative victory in Scarborough

I was honoured to be invited to speak on August 5th at the General Election victory celebration in Scarborough. Former MEP Robert Goodwill took the seat from Labour in May. Chris Heaton-Harris and I had spent time in Scarborough and Whitby before the election supporting Robert's campaign (see photo on my web-site).

With an enthusiastic audience of around 150, it was an excellent and very happy occasion. The constituency is of course in the Yorkshire region. Yorkshire MEPs Timothy Kirkhope and Edward McMillan-Scott had been invited, but had been unable to attend.

The Iraqi Constitution

I was amused to hear that when the new Iraqi Constitution was presented to the parliament in Baghdad, it was read out in its entirety. Lucky they didn't try that with the EU Constitution. At nearly 500 pages, it would have taken all day, and those who didn't go to sleep would have gone home!

Look out for the Autumn Ad campaign!

One of the practical arguments that Chris and I have deployed against British membership of the EPP group in the parliament (leaving aside our ideological differences) is that the EPP absorbs most of our parliamentary funding. Now that I'm an unattached member, I attract less funding than I did before, but I get all of it to spend in the East Midlands, instead of having 90% syphoned off by the federalists. Now we're seeing the benefit.

Watch out for press ads in the major regional papers during the autumn, stressing that Conservatives oppose EU integration, that we reject the EU Constitution and want to keep the Pound -- and inviting the public to visit Chris's web-site and mine.

If you've read this far -- Thank You!

And special thanks to all those who send positive comments and feed-back after each issue of Straight Talking. I value your encouragement enormously. I try to reply to all those who include specific queries, but forgive me if I'm not able to respond to everyone each time.


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