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 - July 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.

July 1st: A Torrid Start for the French EU Presidency

As I write, July 1st, France takes over the six-month Presidency of the EU. And they're off to a rough start, for this morning's news is that Polish President Lech Kaczynski has refused to sign off the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, on the very reasonable grounds that after the Irish NO vote, the Treaty is dead. The splendid Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic is also delaying ratification.

Meantime other EU leaders mouth platitudes about "respecting the Irish vote", yet they press ahead with ratification in defiance of public opinion. The EU loves to talk about "democracy and the rule of law", yet if you want to find those values you have to look not in London, or Paris, or Berlin, but in Prague and Warsaw. At least Poland and the Czech Republic are prepared to stand up for freedom and democracy. Well done them.

What the Irish Commissioner said: Ireland's EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy (a fairly sensible man for a Commissioner) has passed some trenchant remarks on the Irish referendum result. According to the Irish Independent, he said the turnout for the referendum had been very high; the people had spoken; and the treaty as planned could not go ahead. He told Irish radio, "I somehow suspect that if many other member states of the EU had to put it before their people, the result would be the same". According to EUobserver, McCreevy added: "We should remember that Ireland is not alone in being unable to secure a popular endorsement of a European Treaty. As politicians this is something we need to learn from."

What the French President said: "The Irish are bloody fools. They have been stuffing their faces at Europe's expense for years, and now they dump us in the s**t" (reported in The Times, June 20th). This is what is known in Brussels as "Respecting the Irish vote".

And an Irish view on the US elections: 'We in Ireland can't figure out why people are even bothering to hold an election in the United States. On one side, you have a gal who is a lawyer, married to a lawyer, running against a lawyer who is married to a gal who is a lawyer. On the other side, you have a war hero married to a good looking woman who owns a beer distributorship. What are you lads thinking over there?'

Extreme Comparisons

Dan Hannan MEP rose on a point of order during a voting session in Straz recently and said, "Mr. President, I didn't much like the result of that vote. So can we follow the example of the Irish Referendum and just ignore it?".

We should be careful of extreme comparisons. There are legitimate parallels between the EU and the USSR (unelected Commissars driven about in big black limousines, five year plans, an aversion to democracy, votes where only one result is permitted, and so on), but there is no Lubianka Prison in Brussels -- or at least not yet.

But several people have pointed to a parallel between the EU and the odious Robert Mugabe. Both conduct polls and conspicuously ignore the results.

The Lords fail to stop Lisbon

In the shameful vote on the Lisbon Treaty, when the House of Lords failed to delay the wretched Treaty despite its rejection in Ireland, Lord Pearson bravely named a dozen peers in receipt of substantial EU pensions, eleven of whom failed to declare an interest. Predictably, Kinnock threw a wobbly. The EU bullies Ireland while it rewards its fellow travellers in Westminster. Shame on them

"It would be ridiculous to ask the Irish to vote twice when the British haven't voted once". Cameron's Comment at PMQs:

What does it mean for the Euro?

Ambrose Evans Pritchard writes that the failure of Lisbon may have profound effects on the euro. The Bundesbank once said that a single currency would need a single political entity to back it. This, says Ambrose, would need "a de facto EU Treasury, a unified wage system, and the plausible prospect of a debt and pensions pool". None of these exists, or is likely to.

Some EU leaders are implying that Ireland is dispensable. That invites the financial markets to start driving a wedge between government bonds from core countries, and those from the periphery. As Ambrose says, "Clearly the euro break-up risk has been hugely mispriced". Watch this space.

Quote of the Month

At our Brussels network event on July 2nd, Henri LePage, a classical liberal French economist, said: "The EU allows over-regulated member-states to export their own level of regulation to less regulated members".

Italy goes nuclear

In a flush of green zeal following the Chernobyl event in 1986, Italy voted to phase out its nuclear power plants. It is now the only G8 country without any nuclear power. But with the current price of oil and gas, they have just noticed that it is costing Italy around twice as much as France to generate electricity -- which is yet another burden for the struggling Italian economy to bear.

Reality is getting a grip. In 1970, 70% of Italians opposed nuclear power. Today, 60% are in favour. So the flamboyant Signor Berlusconi is putting nuclear at the heart of Italy's new build programme. There's a lesson there somewhere. And for those who still believe the alarmist position on climate change, nuclear is virtually carbon-free power. The greens deny this, saying that over a lifetime analysis (mining and transporting uranium, building reactors and so on), nuclear power does produce CO2. They are right. On a per-kilowatt basis, nuclear produces just the same CO2 emissions as wind power.

The Climate Agora

On June 12th/13th, I attended the EU's "Agora" (posh word for Conference) on climate change in the Brussels parliament. The EU has given up on representative democracy -- because the people keep voting the wrong way (see "Ireland"). So they've decided the best way forward is participative democracy. Let's invite "civil society" to the debate. By this they mean a bunch of NGOs, activists and busybodies, mostly funded by the Commission, and representing no one in particular. And because they are all NGOs with an interest in climate change, guess what -- they all agree with the Commission! This is a much better idea than trying to get the public to vote for higher taxes and dearer petrol.

I loved one contribution from the floor, which illustrates the general quality of intellectual debate. A lady said we should concentrate on wind power because it's "free". But of course in that sense, oil, gas and coal are "free". They're just lying in the ground waiting for someone to dig them out. Trouble is, the total cost of producing a kilowatt of electricity from wind is about three times the corresponding cost of power from gas. And in that sense, they're not free at all.

Many thanks to Conservative Councillor Derek Tipp (New Forest District Council) of the Freedom Association who accompanied me at the event, introducing a good dose of Conservative common sense.

"Blue Planet in Green Shackles"

Czech President Vaclav Klaus has written this excellent book on the climate issue, drawing attention to the huge costs of climate mitigation, and the very low probability that the effort will make a significant difference. I was delighted to find my name amongst the references in the index, and especially gratified to find the following foot-note on Page 34, below a discussion of emissions trading schemes and carbon capping: "The difference between real and artificial markets in the context of the current debates about climate change is well described by Roger Helmer (2007), for example".

The book is available from the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, a think-tank with which I have done quite a lot of work. I have also featured it in my new leaflet "Straight Talking on Climate Change" which will be widely distributed in the region and elsewhere.

The excellent Vaclav Klaus is not only a climate sceptic, but also a eurosceptic. Recently in hospital convalescing after minor surgery, he was said by journalists to be "in a very good mood". He remarked: "The Lisbon Treaty is dead, there is no doubt and everybody must respect the fact". And he added: "If you force me to stay in hospital much longer, I am so bored here that I will write you a completely new Treaty. It is a menace!".

Consensus? What consensus?

We hear constantly that the 2500 scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change represent a consensus of all the world's scientists, and that we therefore cannot doubt the IPCC's conclusions. This rather ignores the 32,000+ scientists who have endorsed the Oregon Declaration, which challenges climate orthodoxy. It also disregards two of the IPCC's own panelists, who profoundly disagree with the IPCC conclusions. They were both speakers at my Climate Seminar in the Brussels parliament on June 23rd.

Fred Singer is Emeritus Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, and a giant amongst climate scientists in the USA. Hans Labohm is a Dutch economist and former diplomat. Both are IPCC panelists.

Hans said something that particularly struck me. He said that in his view there were only three politicians who really understood climate science. US Senator Jim Imhoff, a scourge of climate alarmists. Czech President Vaclav Klaus (who referenced my article in his book -- see above). And the third? I couldn't possibly say. Modesty forbids.

Wartime-style rationing for energy

A committee of MPs has proposed a personal carbon capping scheme for every citizen. You would have a ration of energy, and you would have to trade in the market to buy more if you ran out. See how The Wall Street Journal described the plan.

A new take on energy security

For a long time I have argued that we should pay less attention to climate change, and more to energy security. By "energy security", I was thinking of the Russian hand on the gas-taps, and of oil from unstable regions of the world. But I am becoming aware of a new threat to energy security, and that is the question of our own generating capacity in the UK -- whether or not we have the imported fuel we may need.

The government's new green agenda calls for heroic levels of wind power. There are two key threats: first, that with the whole world on a stampede for wind, we may simply be unable to source the 8000 turbines in ten years that the government thinks we need. And the facilities for putting it in place (especially ships that can position very large off-shore turbines) are in short supply. So there is a real risk that the programme will slip very severely. But in anticipation of the contribution from wind, we may well have failed to build the conventional power stations -- nuclear, gas and coal -- that we need both to replace obsolete capacity, and to cover our growing need for power.

A worse threat still: no one in the history of the world has run such a large electricity grid with such a high proportion of intermittent and unpredictable capacity. Voices in the industry are starting to question whether the system will work at all.

So our new green power may not arrive on schedule, or it may not work when it does. There is a real risk that in ten years time we shall be sitting in the dark and the cold, cursing our folly, while our advanced technological economy collapses about our ears. I find that a whole lot more likely, and a whole lot scarier, than climate change. For more, see my blog at http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com

Amendment 159: Coal fired power stations

The Morgan report on a "European strategy for sustainable, competitive and secure energy" was discussed in the last Strasbourg plenary. A number of plenary amendments were voted, including Amendment 159 which called for the prohibition of any "new generating capacity where such capacity would, during its operation, lead to atmospheric CO2 emissions in excess of 350 grams per kilowatt hour produced."

I voted against Amendment 159 because it effectively bans coal. I believe that we need a mix of energy sources and technologies, which must include sources not dependent on imported fossil fuel. This means coal and nuclear.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) technology would be the only means to attain such emission targets with coal, but CCS is not currently available and may never be commercial. Even if it were available, it would be expensive and wasteful. With oil at $140 a barrel, we cannot afford to play politics with our energy security and our future prosperity.

Education, education, education

Writing in the Telegraph, Fraser Nelson, a political editor of the Spectator, argues that a first task for a Cameron government must be to introduce "free schools". The government must make the standard state education funding level available to any qualified person or group or company that wants to run a school. This is not pie-in-the-sky. It is a tried and tested formula that has transformed education across the world from Chile to Holland.

It could, says Nelson, ensure Cameron's second term. But we have to hit the ground running. We have to break the stranglehold of local authorities and of Whitehall, and empower parents and schools, to create a virtuous circle of competition and quality. What a challenge. What an opportunity.

Maggie's Old School comes to Brussels!

On July 2nd, a group of pupils from Kesteven and Grantham Girls' School, Margaret Thatcher's old school, together with others from King's School Grantham, came to Brussels on a visit. Students of economics, they seemed to have a good grasp of optimal currency areas, and customs unions versus free trade areas. Some also studied history. They were currently working on 19th Century Germany, and were very comfortable on Bismarck and the Zollverein. I was able to draw comparisons between the unification of Germany in the 19th century and the EU integration process in the 20th.

I sent them on their way with DVDs, my new climate leaflet, and contact details to enable them to order my newsletter. A pleasure to meet a group so interested and well-informed -- and with such important political connections!

Euro-team website

The Euro team website is now up and running at this address: http://www.eastmidseuroconservatives.org

The wilder fringes of the blogoshere

Some of the wackier blogs (and The Mail on Sunday) are still saying "Helmer has failed to make any statement about his staff arrangements, despite a written undertaking to do so". In fact, a statement going further than the minimum requirements of our delegation's policy has been online for many weeks.

The Three Phases of Globalisation

At a recent euro-candidates' Conference, James Elles MEP introduced a session on Globalisation by reference to Thomas Friedman's famous "The World is Flat" book. Friedman describes three phases of globalisation. In the early 20th century, it was driven by governments. In the late 20th century, it was driven by multinationals. But in the 21st century, Phase 3, we see the emergence of the empowered, networked individual. In the debate that followed, I asked "In the context of Friedman's analysis, would the panel agree with me that the EU is clearly a Phase One organisation, which has outlived its usefulness in the Phase Three century?". Needless to say, not all the panellists agreed. But I believe that the point stands, nonetheless.

In a later session, a euro-candidate (not one of ours!) asked whether it was incumbent upon the EU to take the concept of democratic accountability to developing countries. I felt it would do better to start in Brussels.

Exam Question on the nature of democracy

The odious Robert Mugabe publicly announced that he would ignore the outcome of the recent Presidential Election in Southern Rhodesia, unless it went his way. The EU meantime is ignoring the outcome of the Irish Referendum on Lisbon, because it did not go their way. Discuss.

Over and over and over: getting to grips with foreign names

The staffer who looked after my interests on the parliament's Climate Committee has just changed. She looked after me and another member. So Johana Horakova is replaced by Aneta Trakalova who will also work for Mrs. Bobosikova. Sounds more like the seeding for the Wimbledon ladies' tournament!


That's it for this Strasbourg session. No newsletter in August -- have a great holiday! Please remember to check www.rogerhelmer.com for more background on current parliamentary business, details of proposals being voted at the Strasbourg plenary session, and a host of other issues.