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Straight Talking - January 2008

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 receive the newsletter second-hand and want to go onto the e-mail list (or if you want to be deleted), please e-mail me on

Alternatively you can subscribe with this form.

At last -- Conservative policies!

I've shared the concern expressed to me by East Midlands Conservatives in 2006/7 about our lack of clear policies in the Conservative Party. But starting in Blackpool in October, they've started to come through. And they were worth waiting for. Clear commitments on taxation. Sensible plans for schools. And now welfare.

Over and over, this Labour government has promised action on welfare. Over and over they flunked it. Frank Field thought the unthinkable -- and got fired. David Freud, Tony Blair's advisor on welfare, wrote a report that Blair welcomed, but Gordon Brown ignored. Now we've come out with a series of eye-catching policies designed to help the unemployed back into work, and to pressure the work-shy.

These ideas are based loosely on similar programmes introduced in the US by the previous Clinton administration, which have moved thousands of people off welfare and into work. Policies that take people out of the "economic house-arrest" of unemployment, and give them a job, and with it give them self-reliance and self-respect.

They are also not too dissimilar from the David Freud ideas -- and Freud has endorsed the Conservative plans. So the government has the tough task of trying to rubbish Tory plans that its own welfare advisor supports.

At last, we're starting to look like a government-in-waiting. Let's hope we don't need to wait too long.

Labour goes nuclear

David Cameron says we should be prepared to recognise when the government is doing something right. It happens so rarely that we may get out of the habit. But their decision to sanction a new generation of nuclear power stations is a case in point. And none too soon.

In a sense they had little choice. If you buy the global warming hype, then nuclear is the only carbon-free, mainstream, reliable, base-load generating technology we have. We simply cannot make our extravagant CO2 reduction targets without it.

If, more realistically, you share my concern over energy security and Russia's gas-tap blackmail, then nuclear is a great part of the answer. And if you care about the British economy, we need nuclear energy, because it's now much cheaper than gas or oil, even when you've paid for nuclear waste disposal and eventual decommissioning. French industry benefits from cheap nuclear power. How is British industry supposed to compete without it?

We now wait to see if the government has the courage of its convictions, and if it can get the planning consent through in eighteen months rather than eight years. But in this case, Gordon Brown is right (for once), and Zac Goldsmith is wrong.

The Hooligans' Demonstration

An after-word on the "Referendum" demonstration in the Strasbourg Hemicycle on Dec 12th. The Daily Mail described it as a "Hooligans' Demonstration". Labour and Lib-Dem members said we should not have interrupted the proceedings of the house.

But we have a parliament which persistently votes in favour of EU integration and against the wishes of European citizens (who want a Referendum). That's because the MEPs consist (largely) of Euro-visionaries who will allow nothing to stand in their way. The institutions talk of "A Europe of values based on democracy", but when the people demand a democratic vote, their views are dismissed with contempt. We have EU institutions determined to drive the project forward in the teeth of public opposition. And we have member-state governments -- most notably our own -- elected on a promise of a Referendum, but now determined to deny one.

In these circumstances, I believe our demonstration was justified. We had the Presidents of the EU's three key institutions in the Hemicycle -- parliament, Council and Commission. And for five minutes we forced them to listen to the voice of the people. They hated it.

Big-mouthed, red-faced, grumpy old men

On Dec 19th I responded to a piece on Commissioner Wallstrom's blog in the following terms:

As one of the big-mouthed, red-faced, grumpy old men castigated by the Commissioner, may I say that I would never be so discourteous as to pass pejorative comments on Mrs Wallstrom’s appearance — she is a very handsome woman. However I am shocked by the towering contempt which she and her fellow Commissioners show for public opinion. They speak of “A Europe of values based on democracy”, but they then dismiss the overwhelming view of the French and Dutch voters on the Constitution in 2005. I am shocked by the deceit and cynicism with which they bring back essentially the same text, and pretend that it is different. I am shocked by the seven member-state governments that were elected on a promise of a referendum, but are now breaking their word.

I regretted the need to disrupt the proceedings of the House, but how else are we to represent the views of the people when the institutions refuse to listen? The fact is that for five minutes the Presidents of the Commission, the parliament and the council were forced to listen to the demands of the people. And they hated it.

Goebbels rides again

Another fine example of the EU's propagandists riding roughshod over reality. Orwell's Ministry of Truth strikes again. The parliament's audiovisual services naturally produced video coverage of the signing ceremony, but they found that on their soundtrack, the strains of the European National Anthem were overlaid by our "Referendum" chanting. So they wiped the soundtrack and replaced it with a straight recording of the Anthem. And of course their cameras had avoided our banners as far as they could. Thus is the voice of the people air-brushed out of history.

For amateur, uncensored footage, filmed by a lady who was man-handled out of the room, see http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=vCBIst10H-k

The Charter of Fundamental Rights

Although we were demonstrating for a Referendum, the occasion bringing together the top brass was a formal signing of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights. That's the one that Keith Vaz said had "no more legal force than the Beano". The one that comes in with the Lisbon Treaty/ Constitution. The one where Gordon Brown has some rickety red lines, which will fall at the first challenge in the ECJ.

Predictably, Bill Turncoat Dunn was moved to make one of his rare excursions into regional press, singing the praises of the EU's new Charter. But let's not forget that it was EU "Rights" that enabled convicts to demand pornography in jail, and which prevent Britain from sending home terrorist suspects.

We in Britain have a Common Law tradition stretching back centuries. Our rights are not given us by the state, or by Charters and Conventions. They are ours because we are born with them.

The effect of this Charter will be more judicial activism. It will mean that the law is decided by unaccountable judges, not by politicians (whom at least we can sack at the next election). It contains a host of "Rights" that in many cases are self-contradictory. It will be a field-day for lawyers, but a bad day for the freedoms of English men and women.

The Treaty is shorter than the Constitution. Isn't it?

President Sarkozy of France promised the people a "Mini-Treaty". So of course the Treaty is shorter than the Constitution. It's only 287 pages, against the Constitution's 349.

But check the word-count. The Treaty has 76,250 words, whereas the Constitution has only 67,850. So the Treaty is actually 8,400 words -- 12.4% -- longer than the Constitution! How did they get the page-count down? Easy. Closer line spacing. The closer you look at the Treaty, the more you discover cynicism, and deceit, and contempt for democracy and for the people.

Slovenian Presidency

The EU's six-month rotating Presidency goes to Slovenia for Jan/Jun 2008 -- the first of the new accession states to hold it. Their diplomatic resources are so limited that they may well be just a front for France, who have the next turn (July/Dec). But you might like a quote from the (not very diplomatic) Slovenian European Minister Janez Lenarcic: "Slovenia will delay sensitive EU policy debates if necessary. It wouldn't be helpful for ratification in the UK if at the same time we discussed the fate of the British [budget] rebate". So we know what to expect.

Schengen change will add to immigration woes

The Sunday Telegraph carried a story about the extension of the EU's Schengen free-movement area (travel without passports) to the new Eastern European accession states, with direct borders with countries like Ukraine. While Britain is not part of Schengen, this means that immigrants from the Former Soviet Union will be able to travel without hindrance from Slovenia to Calais. They will have little trouble entering across the EU's porous Eastern borders, and only a little more smuggling themselves into Britain. The Telegraph story carried a brief quote from me, expressing my concern.

My good friend and colleague Joel Anand Samy of the Adriatic Institute in Zagreb shares my worries. He writes: "The Balkan mafia groups are gearing up for record Christmas bonuses. You can be assured that the EU's imprudent approach will increase human trafficking. The shipment of arms and illegal hard drugs will pour into Western Europe as never before. Unfortunately, we have just strengthened Croatia's organized criminal groups".

Breakfast with Borg, Commissioner for Fisheries

On Jan 10th I attended a major breakfast meeting addressed by the Maltese Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Joe Borg. In a confident and measured speech he spoke repeatedly of "an integrated approach". Sadly he had little to say on fisheries per se, apart from mentioning his determination to end "Destructive Fishing Practices".

In the subsequent debate, I replied: "Commissioner Borg, you have said a lot about an integrated approach. But one man's integrated approach is another man's Central Planning. We tried that in the twentieth century, and we found its main effect was to enable us to make mistakes on a much larger scale.

"The Common Fisheries Policy is a mistake on an heroic scale. It has been a disaster for the environment, for the industry and for the consumer. It is the Tragedy of the Commons writ large. You tell us that you will end destructive fishing practices. But we have been talking about CFP reform for 35 years, and I have no doubt we shall be here in ten years' time and get the same answer. It is a scandal, and it should be stopped now".

Afterwards a senior trade representative from a non-EU Mission in Brussels approached me privately, and gratifyingly, to say that he agreed with my intervention.

Freedom Today, Dec/Jan edition

I've just seen the first electronic file of the latest edition of Freedom Today. It's a cracking issue, packed with news and comment on EU questions and a whole range of other issues, with contributions from John Redwood, Brian Binley, Tim Condon and others. To get your copy (and to join the Freedom Association) visit www.tfa.net.

The Bruges Group's "Euro-Creep Bulletin"

I was also impressed by the Bruges Group's Bulletin. It covers a wide range of issues, highlighting ways in which the EU is taking over the governance of the UK. (Of course we get rather lot of Euro-Creeps in Brussels!).

Rare news of the Orange One

Hugh Muir in the Guardian, Jan 9th: "A question from Robert Kilroy-Silk, MEP for the East Midlands. "Does the commission attribute the death of culture in France to its absorption into the EU?" he asks, borrowing his thesis from Time magazine. "Is this why it has no artist or writer of international standing?" And if we file this alongside his earlier inquiry, when he asked whether Marks & Spencer's mirrors were distorted to make women look thinner, a pattern emerges. Might we attribute the death of his TV career to his brain-dead observations?"

Good news for Polar Bears!

A new fossil find shows that Polar Bears have been around for well over 100,000 years, placing them in the Eemian Interglacial period (135 to 115k BP). During that time, temperatures were significantly warmer than at present (+5OC). And clearly they survived those temperatures. It sounds as though forecasts of their imminent extinction may be a bit premature.

Quaternary geologist Professor Dr. Olafur Ingolfsson of the University of Iceland discovered the new fossil. He says "The polar bear is basically a brown bear that decided some time ago that it would be easier to feed on seals on the ice. So long as there are seals, there are going to be polar bears. I think the threat to the polar bears is much more to do with pollution, the build up of heavy metals in the Arctic".

Indeed despite the alarmist claims, serious studies show that the polar bear is doing rather well, with populations increasing. For more on this, see:

The CATO Institute on Tax Competition

The EU loves to talk about "harmful Tax Competition". But tax competition is good. Tax harmonisation is a cartel operated by governments against the interests of the people. The Cato Institute in Washington has produced two short videos, on personal and corporate tax competition. See them at www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJWLemN29Wc (personal),and www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSB_-g-GQCA (corporate).

Get the Charnwood Conservative Scarf!

Charnwood Conservatives have come up with a novel fund-raising idea: the Charnwood Conservative scarf. Be at the forefront of fashion with this limited-edition accessory. Check it out at: www.charnwoodconservatives.com/scarves.htm

"I Want a Referendum" campaign takes spoof traffic signs to EU summit

This must be one of the wittiest and most amusing referendum protests to date. See the signs that they took to Brussels in December: click here and here. And visit: www.iwantareferendum.com

Shock Horror: Helmer goes native!

Sit down comfortably. Take a deep breath. If possible, get a small glass of Scotch handy. Because I have a shocking admission to make. After 8½ years in Brussels, I believe I've finally found something good about the EU! There is a proposal going around for what is pejoratively called "Health Tourism" in the EU. Broadly speaking, this would mean that if a treatment were not available to you locally in a timely fashion, you could go to any other member-state for treatment -- and the NHS would have to pay!

Labour MPs are up in arms. This, they say, could mean the end of the NHS as we know it. They're right. It could mean the end of centrally-planned health provision controlled from Whitehall. The end of post-code rationing. The end of waiting lists. Quite possibly the end of MRSA.

The European Single Market, though imperfect and often failing, is none-the-less in principle capable of allocating scarce resources more effectively across Europe than isolated national markets can. Health would be a brilliant opportunity for the market to work its magic. Given that health is one of the few remaining state monopolies in Britain (OK, call it a quasi-monopoly if you will), the best thing for it would be a good dose of international competition.

If it makes a bunch of Labour MPs really, deeply angry with Brussels at the same time, it will kill two birds with one stone.

(Reality Check: despite the benefits of international competition, and the attractions of breaking a state monopoly, I remain absolutely opposed to the EU assuming further powers over UK healthcare)

Guido Sacconi's Bon Mot

Guido Sacconi MEP, Chairman of our Temporary Committee on Climate Change, made a wonderful remark as he invited members to indicate their wish to speak. He said: "I see that a lot of colleagues have asked for the floor, especially those who are present".

Quote of the month

"Are we ready for a black President? Of course we are. Trouble is, Condi Rice is not running". Daily Telegraph reader comment, Jan 5th.


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.