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Straight Talking - June 2006

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.

Leicester Mercury readers say "NO" to the EU!

In a recent research study by the Leicester Mercury (May 22nd), readers gave a decisive "Thumbs Down" to the EU. More than two-thirds oppose joining the euro. Three quarters believed that "the EU did not deliver value for money" (although it's astonishing that anyone thinks the spectacularly corrupt and wasteful EU is value for money!).

In a typical cant europhile response, the redoubtable federalist Peter Valen­tine said that negative attitudes to the EU exist because "people don't know enough about the institutions". I spend much of my time telling people about the EU, and I find that the more I tell them, the angrier they get!

I sense a sea-change in attitudes to the EU. Since the launch of the euro in 2000, business opinion has swung from generally positive to generally negative, as the economic consequences have become clear. And ordinary folk who were vaguely uncomfortable with the EU are becoming openly hostile, or even angry. The revolution has started. Visit www.betteroffout.co.uk

Dan Hannan joins Better Off Out

My good friend and colleague Dan Hannan MEP (South East) has added his weight to the Better Off Out campaign. He writes: "The EU is making us poorer, less democratic and less free. I don't see withdrawal as an end in itself, but as a means to an end -- that end being a Britain which respects the principles of limited government and individual liberty".

Is this a record?

Normally when the Whip is suspended from a parliamentarian, it is restored within weeks, or months. Remember the Maastricht rebels and the Major government? Yet despite my repeated attempts to open talks with the delegation leadership, despite representations from Conservatives across the region, despite many hundreds of Conservative signatures on the Reinstate Roger web-site, I passed the first anniversary of the suspension of the Whip on May 27th.

I believe this is unprecedented. I have submitted an application to the Guinness Book of Records.

Letters in the national press

Daily Telegraph, June 8th: Sir, David Cameron has given a clear commitment to pull his MEPs out of the EPP group in the European parliament. This commitment was not contingent on post-independence arrangements, nor should it be.

It was on this commitment that I and many Conservatives supported the Cameron candidacy. There may be problems with potential new partners, but they are trivial compared to the problem with the existing partner of Conservative MEPs, the EPP group.

Most Conservatives find it intolerable that their MEPs are in the pocket of the most passionately integrationist group in the European parliament. Mr. Cameron has repeatedly insisted that we cannot say one thing in Britain and do another in Brussels. I believe that he will fulfil his commitment to pull his troops out of the EPP, and I hope that he will do so sooner rather than later.

Yours faithfully. ROGER HELMER MEP.

Guardian, June 9th: In your report on the Conservatives and the EPP (June 2nd) you say that "leaving the EPP would cut off Conservative MEPs from EPP funds". This is a complete myth put about by the pro-EPP faction. I was until May 2005 Treasurer of the delegation, so I know the numbers. The EPP top-slices the parliamentary funding attracted by its MEPs, so that the Conservatives get less per head than "unattached" members. They receive around €35,000 annually, compared with €40,000 for the unattached.

On forming a new group, MEPs would receive around €65,000, and while a little of this might go for group overhead, most would go to the delegation. There would also be big savings on staffing. On leaving the EPP and forming a new group, the Conservative MEPs would be at least £500,000 a year better off.

Yours faithfully. ROGER HELMER MEP.

The EPP: does it matter? Why the fuss?

Some people are asking why the EPP matters. Who cares where a few Conservative MEPs happen to sit in the European parliament? But there is more to it than that. We are talking about creating, for the first time, a real opposition in Brussels to the federalist project. For the first time, we are challenging the federalist monopoly, because currently all major groups in the parliament are committed to ever-closer union and to a United States of Europe. That is why continental leaders like Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy are so alarmed by the proposed Conservative group. And why Cameron must deliver on it.

Common Fisheries Policy

This is just about the single most disastrous policy of the EU. It is hugely damaging and wholly indefensible. Owen Paterson MP did a huge amount of work on how and why we should leave the CFP, and Michael Howard accepted his recommendation. So I was dismayed to hear that the Party has now abandoned its commitment to withdraw from the CFP. I have written to David Cameron and William Hague to protest, saying "It is one thing to abandon the core vote strategy. It is quite another thing to abandon the core vote". This decision is wrong and I cannot support it.

A comment from Harold MacMillan

From his book "At the End of the Day": "I don't see how the Conservative Party can avoid some sort of split on this issue. But the example of Balfour after 1903 surely suggests that the attempt to avoid ANY split, on some hotly contentious issue, may simply result in a far greater and more damaging one (and an electoral disaster)." (Page 16 of the First Edition.)

I don't know what his issue was, but his remarks could well apply to the EPP debate.

A lesson from Montenegro

In the recent Montenegrin referendum on independence from Serbia, the EU insisted on an enhanced majority of 55%. For once, well done Brussels. It is clearly right that a major constitutional change should have the full-hearted consent of the people, and that this should be reflected in an enhanced majority.

Let us hope that the same principle will be applied to any future referendum on the EU Constitution. I would recommend a double threshold of 50% turnout plus a two thirds YES vote.

But of course there will be no referendum. They will introduce the Constitution piecemeal whether we like it or not.

A trip to Toulouse

On June 7th/8th I went with other MEPs on a 24-hour flying visit to the headquarters of Airbus in Toulouse (see pictures here and here). Airbus is one of the world's largest plane-makers, and is a major customer of Rolls Royce in Derby.

Airbus is alarmed by the EU's chemicals regulation "REACH", which they say will make it difficult for them to compete with their global rival Boeing in Seattle (see more detailed press release on the web-site). I have argued for years that REACH would damage competitiveness and jobs, and drive manufacturing out of the EU. Airbus's stance is dramatic evidence of that effect.

I expect to visit Boeing (also a major Rolls Royce customer) in Seattle in July.

A reflection on ID cards

We often hear that honest folk have nothing to fear from ID cards. Try telling that to the 1,500 honest folk recently given a false criminal record by the Home Office and the Criminal Records Bureau. The fact is that ID cards are a potential tool of oppression, whether through incompetence or through malice aforethought.

Baroness Verma of Leicester

I was delighted to attend the party to celebrate the ennoblement of Sandip Verma, which took place in Leicester on June 8th. The guest of Honour was to have been Michael Howard, but he was detained by urgent business in his Kent constituency. So I was called on to speak in his place, and delighted to do so. Sandip will do a great job in the Lords.

BOOT boys

I have recently received an e-mail from a Christopher Arkell, who writes: "I am a Better-Off-Out Tory - i.e. a BOOT boy. My BOOT is aimed firmly at the fat rump of Euroland".

Nice acronym, Christopher.

Confronting Imperialism

Ken Loach has just won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for "The Wind that Shakes the Barley", a romanticised story of the Irish Easter Rising which depicts British forces as unrelentingly evil. Cannes is perhaps the last place in the world where old-fashioned leftist anti-colonialism can still expect acclaim.

Loach says he hopes his film will help England face up to its Imperialist past. So let's face up to it. I believe that on balance the British Empire was a force for good. As in any great enterprise, there were individual events which can never be justified, especially through the politically-correct lens of the 21st century. But we took civilisation, education, railways, Western values and a model of governance to the ends of the earth, and we should be proud of that.

I remember sitting in the parliament in Singapore, and observing with pride and satisfaction the close parallels with Westminster. Does anyone imagine that India would now be the world's largest democracy without the legacy of the Raj? There are countries today in Africa which would benefit from a colonial administration and a few good District Officers. Sudan and Southern Rhodesia spring to mind.

Quote of the month

Douglas Carswell, MP for Harwich and Clacton, insists that his ambition in politics is to represent his constituents, not to climb the greasy pole. But pressed to say what front bench job might appeal to him, he replies: "I'd like to be Britain's last Europe Minister". What a good man!

The Mullahs hold sway in the European parliament

My colleague Struan Stevenson MEP arranged to invite the leader of the Iranian opposition, Maryam Rajavi, to address a meeting in the parliament. Getting wind of this, the Iranian mullahs in Tehran put pressure on Xavier Solana, the EU's "Foreign Minister", to cancel the meeting. Solana talked to the Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, who in turn talked to the German Christian Democrat MEPs including EPP group chairman Hans-Gert Poettering, and Hey Presto! The meeting was "postponed" (and probably cancelled).

Well done Hans-Gert. You call it diplomacy. We call it appeasement.

Recent events

May 8th/11th: Delegation of the parliament's CIA Committee to Washington. Too much happened for a newsletter story: see the web-site for more (and photos of this and other events).

Friday May 12: Lunch with the East Midlands Conservative Women's Organisation, along with Thalia Openshaw, their new Chairman, and Lady Fiona Hodgson, the National Chairman, at the Masonic Rooms in Rushcliffe.

Sunday May 14th: Joined the Inland Waterways Association's national cruise in their narrow-boat "Jubilee", along with Market Harborough Cllr Brian Smith and his grandson, from North Kilworth marina to Foxton Locks.

May 17th/18th: Events in Strasbourg to celebrate the return of British beef to France. Six years ago we marched in the Champs Elysées to demand the end of the French beef ban. It was a long time coming, but we got there.

May 21st: Visit to the Thomas Estley School in Broughton Astley

May 25/26: Filming in the East Midlands for a forthcoming DVD. Watch this space.

May 28th: Appeared on "Test the Nation", BBC1. I scored 50 against the politicians' average of 46.

June 4th: Rutland Show. See photos here and here.

June 8th: Visit to Airbus in Toulouse, France (Major Rolls Royce customer)

Web-sites worth visiting

www.adieu-epp.com: Why Conservative MEPs should leave the EPP

www.oneseat.eu Petition to stop the parliament's travelling circus to Straz.

And www.betteroffout.co.uk, www.tfa.net, www.reinstateroger.com

Ruth Lea on climate change

Ruth Lea of the Centre for Policy Studies wrote splendid piece in the Telegraph of May 22nd, in which she compared climate change hysteria to "Lysenko's politicised pseudo-science of the Soviet era". She asks four key questions:

Is global warming happening? Probably, but then climate change has always been happening.

Is it anthropogenic (man-made)? Maybe.

Is it always a bad thing? No. There will be winners and losers. But in the welter of media hype, we hear only the bad news.

Can we do anything about it? Not much. Kyoto will make an almost immeasurably small difference, even if implemented (which it won't be). Far better to spend our money on adapting to change, and on new clean technologies (as the AP6 group is doing), rather than on doomed attempts to meet artificial targets.


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