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Straight Talking - February 2007

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.

Cameron toughens EU stance

David Cameron has significantly toughened the Party's stance on the EU by declaring moves towards an EU Constitution "wrong-headed and perverse" (see Angela Merkel, below). Liam Fox goes further and says "Many Conservatives would sympathise with UKIP's general view of European policy".

I am delighted by this move to give some substance to the Party's EU policy, and to respond to the concerns of Conservative members and voters. Yet David is still saying "With reform, Europe can be a force for good".

If you repair a car, you know why you're doing it, because you know what the car is for when it's repaired. But even if we could reform the EU (and we've been talking about reform for thirty years without much result), what would the reformed EU be good for?

There is simply no benefit of EU membership which could not be achieved by ordinary treaties and agreements between sovereign states, without out-sourcing our governance and our democracy to unaccountable foreign institutions in Brussels. Yes, we want good trade relations, but why do we want a preferential deal with an area like the EU, in long-term relative economic decline? Yes, we want to cooperate on the environment, and other vital issues, but why always preferentially with those particular 27 countries, when other groups might be more relevant?

It is time to recognise that the EU is beyond reform, and deserves to be put out of its misery. Or as Mark Wallace of the Freedom Association puts it, "If you want to go north, you don't get on a south-bound train and try to turn it around".

The hypocrisy of Angela Merkel...

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President-in-Office of the European Council, delivered a speech on Jan 17th to the European parliament in Strasbourg, at the start of the six-month German Presidency. She gave a ringing endorsement of Freedom. It was, she said, "The soul of Europe". It was the common value that bound our diverse countries together. Freedom of expression was needed "as much as we need the air we breathe". She even quoted Voltaire: "I may disagree with what you say, but I shall defend to the end your right to say it".

So far so good. But this is the same Germany that is seeking to outlaw Holocaust denial, and the display of Nazi symbols, not only in Germany but across the whole of the EU. She believes in freedom of expression, but she also believes in criminal sanctions for those in Britain who exercise it.

There are those who believe the world is flat. There are those who believe that the moon landing in 1969 was filmed on a back-lot in Hollywood. There are those who believe that Princess Di was assassinated by MI6. There are those who believe that the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre was a Mossad operation. I think they're all nuts. But they have a right to their daft opinions. The way to deal with them, and with holocaust deniers, is to ignore them, or perhaps to ridicule them, but not to put them in jail.

Against this background, Angela Merkel's passionate defence of free speech is mere hypocrisy. But then we know that she can believe two incompatible things at the same time -- for example that the EU is democratic, despite its firm intention to ignore the democratic verdict of the French and Dutch people on the EU Constitution.

... but she has one good idea!

The European Voice, an EU rag in Brussels, runs a front page headline "Angela Merkel warns: No Treaty, No Enlargement". Sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

"Treaty" is headline writers' short-hand for "Constitution". They will try to use the word "treaty" rather than constitution, in order to make it seem more normal, and so more acceptable to ratify without a referendum. But their "treaty" will contain all the worst bits of the failed Constitution, and should be treated in exactly the same way.

The EU and climate change: Chaos and failure

I have written a rather longer-than-usual article -- around 2000 words -- on this important subject for the February issue of The European Journal. The EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS) is failing. The EU is not achieving its Kyoto commitments. And despite the EU's Holier-Than-Thou attitude to America, the US on some measures is actually doing significantly better than the EU in controlling its emissions.

An apology: in the EJ article, by an unforgivable slip of the pen, I referred to Nigel Lawson as Norman Lamont. I apologise unreservedly to both gentlemen, and to the Editor of EJ.

Meantime, sea level rise slowed in the 20th century

GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 34, 4 January 2007 shows that the rate of rise of global sea level (which has been going since records began) actually slowed during the 20th century -- in defiance of the climate alarmists who speak of catastrophic rises. The annual rate of rise in the first half (1900/50) was 2.03 mm/year, as against 1.45 mm/yr in the second half (1951/2000). That gives a total rise of about 174 mm in the century -- or about 7 inches.

The full article can be found here

Now it's the European Environmental Union!

Press reports tell us that David Milliband and his merry men plan to undermine euroscepticism by re-branding the EU as "The Environmental Union". They believe that public concern over climate change can be parleyed into support for Brussels.

The same people who used to tell us that "smoke crosses national boundaries, so we need the EU" seem oblivious to the fact that smoke crosses the whole world, and China is building coal-fired power stations at a huge rate. Whatever your take on climate change, it is clear that only global solutions, and especially solutions that engage China and India, can make any difference at all. That is why the USA's AP6 initiative is so much more sensible than the EU's efforts.

And the EU's efforts are failing. Only two member-states are on course to meet Kyoto targets. The EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS) is failing to cut emissions, but succeeding in damaging the UK economy (I have previously reported on the Open Europe report on ETS).

It is becoming crystal clear that the climate change threat, real or not, is being seized on by leading politicians to promote new taxes and global governance initiatives that undermine our democracy.

BBC debunks the Stern Report

A thoughtful review on BBC Radio 4 debunks the findings of the Stern report, saying he exaggerated the downsides and underestimated the costs of reducing emissions.

Quote of the month

"I hope the UK doesn't leave the EU. Personally, if someone has to leave, I'd much rather it was the French!" -- Swedish EPP-ED MEP Christofer Fjellner, speaking in the debate on the EU at the College of Europe in Bruges on Feb 6th. (See photo).

Choice in education -- a real initiative

Three years ago the think-tank Civitas decided to respond to the failures in the education system by starting the New Model School Company. The aim is to run low-cost independent schools which will bring such schools within the range of more parents, since opinion polls show large numbers of parents would send their children to independent schools if they could afford them.

So far one new school is up and running, in Kensal Town, London and a second in Hammersmith is in the planning stage.

The company operates on the Victorian principle of philanthropy and five per cent. It sells shares with dividends capped at five per cent to raise the capital for each school. Supporters pay £1,100 for a share, of which £1,000 is an interest-free loan. The company is seeking investors to buy 100 shares to start its next school. If you are interested please ring 020 7799 6677. Me? I'm saving my pennies. I think this is a brilliant idea.

Filling the vacant Chair

On Jan 17th I went along to the Animal Welfare Inter-Group to assist in the election of its new Chairman. I was a bit taken aback to find that there were more British Conservatives at the event than all the other MEPs combined -- perhaps because one of the candidates was our own agriculture spokesman Neil Parish. As a result of this exceptional support, he beat the redoubtable Green MEP Caroline Lucas 34 to 13.

I was glad Neil got the job, and I also congratulate him on his appointment as Chairman of the Agriculture Committee. A very distinguished member of our delegation said after the vote "Oh! Was this the Animal Welfare Intergroup? I thought it was the Hunting Intergroup!".

An attack on America...

For over a year, I've been sitting on the parliament's temporary committee on the CIA and "extraordinary rendition" (the alleged process by which terrorist suspects are detained and transported extra-judicially). This started out as playground rivalry. The Council of Europe had done a report, so we had to do one as well.

But it was also driven by the parliament's paranoid anti-Americanism, personified in Lib-Dem MEP Sarah (Baroness) Ludford. They failed to distinguish between fact and speculation (any CIA flight was assumed to be carrying suspects). It failed to uncover any new "victims" -- mainly recycling old newspaper cuttings. Despite high expectations, it failed to coax confessions of complicity from member-state governments. And it involved itself with any grubby issues beyond its remit that it happened to think of -- for example the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

On Jan 23rd we had the final committee vote on the report, with over 500 amendments. The session was scheduled to end by 10:00, but was still going strong at 11:00, when I had to leave for an interview with the BBC's Jonty Bloom (on the 25th anniversary of Greenland leaving the EU, as it happened). I dashed back afterwards, just in time to vote against the whole report in the final vote, which we lost 28/17 with three abstentions. We had lost Conservative amendments by about the same margin all the way through.

Of course this was merely the opinion of the parliament, so it will command very little attention in the outside world. But to the extent that it does, it will tend to give comfort and encouragement to the terrorists who are determined to attack and destroy our way of life.

... And an attack on our car industry

The EU Commission is proposing in five years time to impose an average emissions limit in every car maker in the EU, at a level well below the current emissions of a 1600 cc Ford Focus. (I look forward to seeing all the Commissioners trading in their Mercedes limousines for mini-sardine-cans on wheels with 600 cc engines).

Mass market manufacturers at least have the chance to develop low-end models, but we in Britain have several manufacturers of luxury and performance cars -- like Rolls Royce, Bentley, Land Rover, Lotus and Morgan -- who simply have no way to start to address the issue. If this nonsense goes ahead, they will be destroyed, or move off-shore.

Yet again, a piece of Brussels legislation appears to be fair and even-handed, but actually impinges especially severely on British industry. It is intolerable.

Book Review: "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming"

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming. By Chris Horner, Senior Fellow of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Published by Regnery Publishing. A Main Selection of the Conservative Book Club. ISBN 978-1-59698-501-8

The book carries a blurb that reads "Chris Horner has been a staunch champion for common sense in the face of mounting media hysteria on climate. This book looks at both the science and the politics of the issue. It will be an invaluable handbook for all of us who want to leave our grandchildren not only a sustainable world, but also a viable economy". I agree with the blurb. In fact I wrote it!

See the full review here.

Which other party are Conservatives closest to?

In December, Conservative Home asked in its survey, "Other than the Conservative Party, which party comes closest to your views?". The answers were Labour 4%, Lib-Dem 7%, UKIP 43%. Perhaps our Party leadership needs to keep this in mind when seeking the right balance on European policy. We know that many otherwise sound Conservatives "lent" their votes to UKIP in 2004 -- and we don't want to give them a reason to do so again in 2009.

It's great that we're committed to leaving the social chapter and repealing the Human Rights Act, but is it enough? We certainly need to repatriate fisheries as well. It's great that we will promise a referendum before accepting future integration, but what about all that Labour has given away to Brussels since 1997? And all it will give away (including great chunks of the EU Constitution) before the next election?

We should commit ourselves to reversing all that, and especially the large tracts of defence, and of justice and home affairs policy.

Congratulations to Bassetlaw!

The constituency of Bassetlaw has won the 2006 national campaigning award and they get a trip to America to meet the Republicans. Fantastic achievement -- well done Bassetlaw!

The Counter-Consensual Climate Conference

A date for your diary. I am organising a one-day conference in Brussels on Wednesday April 18th, entitled "Climate Change: Evaluating Appropriate Responses". I already have an impressive list of speakers, headed by former Chancellor (and former East Midlands MP) Lord Lawson of Blaby, who I am delighted to say has agreed to attend and speak.

Counter-Consensual Climate Conference


Climate Change: Evaluating Appropriate Responses

Platform speakers

Lord Lawson - Former Chancellor of the Exchequer

Chris Horner - Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington Author "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming : and Environmentalism"

Jim Callaghan - Director of Corporate Relations at RyanAir.

Professor David Henderson - Westminster Business School.

Roger Bootle of Capital Economics - Roger is a well-known commentator and economic columnist

Neil O'Brien - Open Europe

Dr Benny Peiser - Liverpool John Moores University. CCNet Service

April 18th 2007 10:00 - 17:00

Room PHS 7C050, European Parliament, Rue Wiertz, Brussels

RSVP: Tel: 0032 22845764 Fax: 0032 2284976


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.