What's New
Speeches & Articles
Newsletter - Jul 2012
Contact Information
Photo Album
Parliamentary Highlights
MEPs' Transparency

The Freedom Association
Visit the
Freedom Association

Straight Talking - September 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.

Welcome to Barroso's Empire of Europe

On July 10th, EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso, rejoicing in the "success" of his Renamed Constitution, hailed the EU as "the creation of an Empire", adding "We have the dimensions of Empire".

I have occasionally spoken of "The EU Empire", as a deliberate, ironic, metaphorical exaggeration -- a rhetorical device to make a point. Yet now here is the Commission President making it official.

We often say that satire has become impossible these days. No matter what absurd, outrageous, hilarious idea you come up with in the morning, someone will actually have done it (or worse) by tea-time. Here is a case in point.

It is doubly ironic since the euro-apologists dismiss out-of-hand the idea of a "European Superstate" -- so last-century, no one talks of it now -- yet Barroso goes a step further with his Empire. But of course the apologists are absurd. If you see a man building a house, laying brick on brick, installing joists and rafters, roof tiles, doors and windows, putting on the final chimney-pot, there is no earthly use in him coming down the ladder and telling you he is not building a house, because you can see the house in front of you.

The same goes for the EU. Which characteristic of a state does it lack? After the Renamed Constitution (if ratified), none. There is now no excuse for Brown to deny us a referendum. We face a stark choice. Do we want to be an independent, self-governing nation? Or an off-shore province in the new Empire of Europe? The people must have their say.

Mind you, I have to admit that "Emperor Barroso the First" has a kind of ring to it.

Just what we need -- advice from the Germans!

Elmar Brok is a rotund German Christian Democrat MEP, who holds a distinguished position in the European Peoples' Party -- the parliamentary group with which British Conservatives (myself excluded) are still uneasily associated. On August 20th, Elmar offered some advice to Gordon Brown. The Daily Telegraph headlined it "Stop moaning or leave the EU". Britain had "got what it wanted" on its red lines. It would be "very unfair" if we were now to put the issue to a popular vote. Brok asked "The UK got its various opt-outs, so what's the problem?". A fair question, Elmar, so let's give you a fair answer:

1    The British government may have agreed to the Renamed Constitution, but the British people have not.

2 Repeated opinion polls show that 80+% of the British people want a referendum, and two thirds would vote NO (indeed with differential turnout, I'd be surprised if the NO vote was below 80%).

3 This Labour government (and some 98% of serving MPs) were elected on a manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on the Constitution. Brok insists that the Renamed Constitution is "substantially different" from the old version, but his own leader Angela Merkel has let the cat out of the bag, by describing it as "presentational changes but with the same legal effect". We simply demand what we were promised: a referendum.

4 Brok says we got our red lines. But as he knows perfectly well, no one in Brussels thinks the British opt-outs will survive challenge in the ECJ. In any case, we had those opt-outs in the first draft Constitution. If they did not obviate the need for a referendum then, they certainly don't now.

5 Given the choice, most Brits would prefer "Less Europe" to "More Europe". By any measure, the Renamed Constitution means More Europe -- lots more. We cannot let it pass unchallenged.

It is both farcical and disgraceful that European leaders constantly speak of "A Europe of values based on democracy", yet they are running scared of the verdict of the people, as they continue to bulldoze through their integration project in the teeth of public hostility.

Carbon emissions policy: rising costs, diminishing returns

I discovered some time ago that the greenhouse effect of atmospheric CO2 is not linear. For the technically-minded, it is logarithmic. If you double the CO2 level, you don't double the greenhouse effect. And the higher the existing level, the smaller the warming effect of any given increase. It's a law of diminishing returns.

Yet our efforts to reduce emissions are increasing costs dramatically. New EU proposals for car emissions threaten to decimate the German auto industry, and close down British brands like Jaguar and Land-Rover.

I recently got some numbers on this. If you take the pre-industrial CO2 level of about 280 ppm, a full half of the warming effect was delivered by merely the first 20 ppm. It took the next 260 ppm to contribute the second half. The fact is that most of the warming that carbon could generate is already there. Future increases in CO2 will make little difference to climate. But they will do huge damage to our economy and our prosperity. A full article with references is available here (in pdf format).

I have been corresponding with Professor Bob Carter of the Marine Geophysical Laboratory in Queensland, Australia, and he has offered a homely analogy to illustrate the rather arcane concept of a "Logarithmic relationship". Imagine one day you step out of your kitchen and whitewash the glass of the kitchen window. You will cut the light coming in a great deal -- perhaps by half. If you go out next day and apply another coat, you will cut the light again. But if you persist, then by the tenth coat, almost no light will get through, so the tenth coat will make little difference, and the 20th none at all.

Atmospheric CO2 is measured in parts per million (ppm), and we're currently at about 380 ppm. In fact the first 20 ppm have a big greenhouse effect, and definitely warm the planet. The next 20 ppm make a much smaller difference. But we've already got 19 x 20 ppm, so the next increase of 20 ppm will make almost no difference at all to the environment. But trying to stop it will do huge damage to the economy.

It's been a cold, wet summer

I moved into my present house in Leicestershire in 1995. Last month, for the first time in eleven years, I found myself lighting the log-burner in the parlour in mid-August! So much for global warming.

Climate folly at Heathrow

In the end, the climate protesters at Heathrow in August did little to disrupt the airport, although they created big costs and headaches for the police. But their action was misconceived. Overcrowding at Heathrow is a national scandal, and it is fast becoming a real threat to Britain's international competitiveness, and to our dominant position in global finance. There is anecdotal evidence of international executives avoiding Britain because of the state of our airports. These protesters talk about climate, but in fact they're anti-business, anti-prosperity, anti-growth, anti-capitalist. They'd like to see Britain reduced to a third-world agrarian economy where every family lives off one acre and a cow (and even then they'd criticise the cows for flatulence!).

They ignore the enormous investment which aircraft companies, and jet engine manufacturers like our own Rolls-Royce, are putting into reducing fuel consumption. Airlines want to make profits, and fuel is a major cost. Do the protesters imagine that airlines don't care about fuel-efficiency?

Even if you buy the increasingly discredited idea that man-made CO2 emissions cause climate change, the fact is that aviation amounts to only about 2% of global emissions. Meantime the emissions from power generation are an order-of-magnitude greater. If these protesters had any sense, they'd be sitting in Whitehall demanding more nuclear power stations.

A few patriots left

The London office of the European parliament (yes there is one -- don't ask me why) has outgrown its palatial premises in Queen Anne's Gate, and was negotiating the lease of still larger premises in Tothill Street, but apparently the negotiations have broken down. The deal-breaker was the refusal of the landlords to allow the EU flag to be flown outside the building. Well done them!

Human Rights and family life

An immigration tribunal has just ruled that Learco Chindama, an Italian citizen who murdered Headmaster Philip Lawrence twelve years ago, cannot be deported, as his family is in the UK, and deportation would infringe his "human right" to family life. Mr. Lawrence's widow says she feels "unutterably depressed", as well she may. Two questions for the tribunal. Haven't they noticed that we routinely set aside a convicted criminal's rights to liberty and family life when we send them to jail? And why is this young thug's right to a family life more important that Mrs. Lawrence's right to a family life, which he took from her in an appalling act of brutality?

It is EU law that puts us in this position. It is time (in John Redwood's masterful phrase) to "dis-apply" EU law.

A tale of two Johns: Redwood good, Gummer less good

After John Redwood's excellent report on the economy, we move on to John Gummer's "Quality of Life" report. It threatens to undo all Redwood's good work and tax reductions, by adding new "green" taxes. Let's leave aside the growing doubts on the alarmist climate scenario. Even if you buy the CO2/climate story, a few green taxes will have a trivial effect on global CO2 emissions, while doing significant economic damage. As a recent letter-writer to the press put it: the Tories must decide whether they're low-tax free market economists, or high-tax socio-environmental meddlers.

George Osborne recently said on the Today programme that he "is not a supply-sider". Well if he paid a moment's attention to the evidence from a dozen countries, he would be, and he ought to be. And it is no good David Cameron insisting that "We will put economic stability ahead of tax cuts". In the medium term, low taxes are a pre-condition for stability, not an alternative to it. High taxes will undermine stability. If you're in a runaway train, you don't achieve stability by doing nothing. You need to take urgent action.

Of course it would be wise to reduce government spending as we reduce taxes. Two suggestions. Recent reports suggest that the cost of quangoes in the UK is an extraordinary £130 billion a year. Finding £20 billion savings there should be a doddle.

Then there's welfare. David Cameron says that family breakdown is the cause of our broken society, and he's partly right. But welfare dependency is as big a problem, or bigger. As Simon Heffer said, "We have an underclass because we have decided to pay for one".

Leaving aside those genuinely unable to work, it's better for both the individual and society that the individual should work. Welfare is there to tide people over temporary illness or misfortune, and to help them back into work. It is not there to fund and maintain a permanent, work-shy, feral underclass, many of whom plague the streets carrying knives or guns. We should do as the US has done, and put a lifetime limit of say five years on welfare eligibility. When that's gone, you'll have to rely on family or charity. Yes of course, there would be a few hard cases. But the great majority would get back to work, and find a better life, a decent income, and some self-respect.

Where's Our Referendum? -- The Postcard!

In conjunction with The Freedom Association (www.tfa.net), I've created a new postcard. On one side is the "Where's Our Referendum?" ad that I've used extensively (see my home page), and on the other is a message for supporters to post to their MP calling for the MP to refuse to ratify the Renamed EU Constitution without a referendum.

If you can use these cards, and guarantee to get them out to the public (rather than filed under the sideboard!), please let me know.

Samples of the card are being sent to East Midlands Constituency associations.

The newt-lover has an idea

London Mayor Ken Livingstone has a new idea to solve the "affordable housing" problem. He proposes that the GLC should make available tracts of land which would be held in perpetuity by a "Public Land Trust". Houses would be built, and the prices would be based on construction costs excluding land, so the houses would be affordable, and they would stay cheap because the Trust would always own the land.

But there's a snag. If the houses get full use of the land (without owning it), then it's as good as freehold, and prices will revert to market prices. The free land will only benefit the first buyer, who will make a killing when he sells. If on the other hand the resale prices are controlled, there will be queues all the way to Marble Arch whenever one of these houses comes up for sale, and we shall be back to the odious spectacle of public officials allocating houses to the deserving poor. So Ken's new model collapses, and defaults to the two existing models of either (A) free market; or (B) Council Housing.

There is nothing new under the sun. Least of all the economic naïveté of socialists trying to meddle in markets.


The British government is seeking the release of five detainees from the American detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. These men are not British citizens, although they had been granted leave to remain in the UK. There is good reason to suppose that they may be very dangerous terrorists. It is not clear that we have the right laws to detain them in the UK, nor is it clear that we would ever be able to expatriate them. If we do have to detain them in the UK, the costs of doing so are likely to run into many millions of pounds. So why do we want them back?

Quotes of the month

Lady Thatcher: "Europe is a monument to the vanity of intellectuals, a programme whose inevitable destiny is failure: only the scale of the final damage is in doubt"

Fred Thompson, US Republican Presidential hopeful: "I believe you can't spend more than you've got coming in. I believe you can't tax people into prosperity. I believe you can't pay people more to stay home than you pay them to work. And I believe that criminals can't do crimes when they're behind bars. Common sense? It's not too common in Washington!"

Dan Hannan MEP: "British values can be found, most of all, in the notion that freedom is our birthright, not something to be handed to us by human rights codes or government statutes".

Former Research Assistant thrives in Washington:

Sally McNamara joined our 1999 euro-team in February that year, and did three years in the UK as Press Officer for me and Chris Heaton-Harris before coming to Brux as my Researcher. In 2004 she went to work with the American Legislative Exchange Council, and moved in 2007 to The Heritage Foundation, the US's premier Conservative think-tank. See her new paper: "Is Europe Doomed to Continued Economic Stagnation?".


That's it for this Strasbourg session. 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.