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Straight Talking - April 2010

Love Europe. Hate the European Union

Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Strasbourg

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
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General Election…..

Readers may wonder why I’ve said very little about the General Election. There’s a technical reason: as this newsletter comes (mostly) from my Brussels office, it deals with my work as an MEP, and general issues. I am not allowed to use it for campaigning purposes, which is why you won’t find the words “Vote”, or “Election”, or “Candidate”. Well not much anyway!

…and a very old story

In the course of recent publicity, I came across a name from twelve years ago. John Stevens, a former Conservative MEP. (OK, his name came up because he’s standing against Bercow in Buckingham). When I was applying to be a euro-candidate in 1998, Stevens also applied for the East Midlands region. He explained that he was a pro-euro Conservative, and asked to be considered. The good selectors of the region said they appreciated his honesty, but they did not want to be represented by MEPs with those views, and he was sent packing.

I don’t admire his views, but I admired his honesty on that occasion – unlike some others. As many of us recall, Bill Turncoat Dunn held very similar pro-euro views, but in 1998 chose deliberately to mislead his selection committee, who gave him the benefit of the very considerable doubt. A year after the election he defected to the Lib Dems.

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The Spanish Property Scam

If you're thinking of buying property in Spain -- or Portugal, or Cyprus, or Bulgaria, or Croatia, or Turkey -- my advice is don't. Just sit quietly with a glass of decent whisky until the feeling goes away. Hundreds of British people, and citizens of other EU Countries, have spent their life savings on their dream retirement bungalow. They've done due diligence. They’ve used reputable lawyers. Then they've moved in, only to find months or years later an eviction notice on the doormat, and bulldozers at the gate.

The lucky ones have simply had their gardens confiscated for a new hotel complex. Then they've received a bill for €80,000 for the provision of public utilities on the land that’s just been expropriated!

In Spain, regional authorities blame the government, and vice versa. The law is interpreted in favour of local developers and land-owners, not property owners. Some of the laws are retrospective.

Property rights and enforceable contracts are not part of the Spanish system. In theory the EU doesn't accept members without a functioning market economy, yet that's exactly what Spain lacks in key respects.

On March 10th I managed to ask a question of the Council -- currently, the Spanish Council -- in an attempt to highlight the issue and embarrass the Spanish government. See my question here. Of course the answer ducked the point, but at least the point was made.

Quote of the Month #1:

"As long as the European Union searches fruitlessly for a single, unified foreign policy it will simply be hunting the Snark."

- Lord David Howell in the Int'l Herald Tribune

Commission support helps companies to fail

An independent, two-year study by the Oxcera consulting firm has found that distressed companies who receive aid from European Institutions have, in some cases, a better chance at failing that those who do not. Oxcera took a sampling of 1300 large, struggling Europe-based companies and found that nearly 70% of those who didn't receive government aid were able to weather the storm. Of those who received monetary aid from the European Commission nearly a third had failed (compared to the other two thirds that were now surviving through artificial means).

The standard EU line on corporate assistance is that it "saves jobs and activities which would otherwise disappear". Government intervention can sometimes be an effective support, in the way wooden stilts can hold up a house. Without a proper foundation, however, that inadequate buttress will only prolong the inevitable.

Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that the adverts from Ed Milliband's “Act on CO2” initiative made exaggerated claims about the threat to Britain from Global Warming. The ASA report goes on to say the ads "failed to accurately reflect uncertainties of the IPCC" when they re-imagined childhood nursery rhymes as cautionary tales against extreme weather events brought on by Climate Change.

Bold print in one cartoon recounts the rhyme "Three Men in a Tub" and suggests the tub was needed to keep dry due to flash flooding. The caption below reads in no uncertain terms, "Climate change is happening. Extreme weather events such as storms and floods will become more frequent and intense within the next 25 years if nothing is done to stop it". Since these claims were taken from the now defamed IPCC report, the ASA had no choice but to rule them invalid.

Perhaps a revision of the CO2 campaign should include the fine print "Results in support of this claim have been found to be inconclusive".

Frightening the children

I recently had an e-mail from a Conservative Councillor, whose ten-year-old son had been scared to death by Global Warming scaremongering at school. Nightmares. Couldn't sleep. Could I recommend a book to reassure him? I knew I'd seen such a book, but couldn't remember the details.

So I called my good friend Iain Murray at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, to ask him. He came straight back with it: Holly Fretwell’s "The Sky's Not Falling: Why it's Okay to Chill About Global Warming"

I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. And oddly, it turned out that Iain knew the Councillor concerned! I'm wondering whether we should now sue the school for scaring children to death.

Salt Water and Soft Soap

Don't you love the Met Office, with their Barbecue Summers and Warmer Winters? Which planet are they on?

Their web-site tells us that oceans will get less salty as glaciers and ice-caps melt, and the melt-water dilutes the salty ocean. But through gritted teeth they admit that current observations show the opposite -- the Atlantic is getting saltier. Oh Dear.

Then despite all the talk of Ice Caps melting, they admit that there has been a small increase in the extent of Antarctic sea ice since the satellite record began in 1978. But they hurry to reassure us that "This small change is consistent with the combined effects of greenhouse gas increases and reductions in the ozone layer". Good. So that's alright, then. See press release here.

Oh we do love to be beside the... Anglo-French pond?

Not satisfied with merely running our countries for us, the EU has now decided to redraw our national boundaries, and has spent more than €1 million of your money in doing so. From now on, Southern England from Cornwall to Kent joins with northern France to become “the TransManche zone”, whilst the West of England joins parts of France, Spain and Portugal to become “the Atlantic zone”. And the English Channel is demoted to a mere Anglo-French Pond. I thought this might be an April fool, but sadly it appears not to be. www.dailymail.co.uk

Dear Commissioner, please keep our lights on

With 33 colleagues from across the political landscape, I have written a letter to the newly appointed Commissioner Öttinger, Commissioner for Energy Policy, to urge him to put nuclear power at the centre of the EU energy policy.

Over the coming years Britain's energy supplies will be squeezed as Brussels forces us to close down or severely limit the running hours of coal and gas power stations. Wind farms are not going to be able to fill that gap -- but nuclear can. If the Eurocrats insist on going down the Low Carbon route, nuclear energy is the only viable alternative. Let's hope the Commissioner reads the letter and takes note. You can see it [here link to be added].

Greenland and AGW

I have recently added an article in full to my website, as I think it's essential reading for anyone still on the fence on the Global Warming issue. It looks at archæological evidence that Greenland was once warm enough for Viking settlers to create farmsteads and villages there -- impossible now as the sites are well below the permafrost.

As the author, S Jay Porter, says, "It follows that temperatures must have been higher than those of today's during that first settlement of Greenland, which lasted from approximately 900 until the mid-1400s AD, when these settlements died out. But since the Greenlanders in 1000 AD did not burn coal or use petroleum gasoline, these temperatures could not have been due to an increase in man-made CO2 emissions."

Confirmed: rigid rules stifle entrepreneurism

A major study by the University of Nottingham has confirmed what many of us knew to be common sense -- that ever increasing environmental regulation is "stifling creativity and threatening the global competitiveness of UK firms".

During my last ten years in the European Parliament, I have regularly warned that prescriptiveness in law-making can only hinder the ability of our businesses to deliver innovation. Sadly, the woolly liberals are only too happy to ignore common sense in their passion to dictate to enterprises they know little about.

This is an ongoing fight -- my colleagues in the Environment Committee are currently fighting to allow power stations to find their own solutions to staying within permitted emissions limits. We must mandate outcomes not methods. This research from Nottingham University will come as welcome news, lending weight to that argument.

Charter of Fundamental Rights – in verse!

Spotted on the website of the Fundamental Rights Agency (who knew we needed such a thing, by the way?):

Negotiated procedure for the presentation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in Poems

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) intends to launch a negotiated procedure for the creation and implementation of an artistic concept for the presentation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in Poems. The FRA is looking to contract a poet or other experienced individual (or group of individuals), or organisation, to devise a poetic composition based on the articles of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, along with the organisation of an accompanying performance.

This "Charter in Poems" (working title) should be composed in English (literary language). The piece will then be performed at the Fundamental Rights Conference 2010, to take place in Brussels on 7 December. This performance should be approximately 80 minutes in length, and should be supported by multimedia elements and/or other artistic performances (dance, music, etc.). It should be a group performance that reflects the diversity of the EU. The performance itself need not be limited to just English, and indeed is encouraged to include other official languages of the EU.

The author(s) shall transfer all intellectual property rights and all usage rights (publishing) for the "Charter in poems" to the FRA.

I'm afraid the deadline for entry has now passed. And this, too, is not an April Fool.

Success of Danish wind power strategy proves to be a lot of hot air

According to a recent article, the subsidy costs of wind power as a method for reducing CO2 emissions comes in at about $124 per tonne of CO2 -- making it one of the most expensive CO2 reduction strategies in the world. For proponents of wind power, this is very bad news.

Denmark is often quoted as being a shining example of how fabulously wind power can work, but the figures simply don't stack up. You can read the article here, although you will need to scroll down to find it.

Telegraph Campaign against Air Passenger Duty rise.

Air Passenger Duty (APD) is being increased on November 1st and will further penalise British holidaymakers. Misleadingly, it is being portrayed by the Government as an environment tax, and yet it is targeted at ordinary travellers taking well-earned holidays, while those using private jets are not being taxed.

Telegraph Travel believes that APD is:

•  Bad for travellers
•  Bad for tourism
•  Bad for business
•  Does nothing to help the environment

If you agree, and would like to support the Telegraph campaign for APD to be abolished, send an email to . with "I, the undersigned, support the Telegraph campaign for APD to be abolished" in the subject line. You will need to include your name and address (with postcode).

For more information, see http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Quote of the Month #2

Not all global-warming sceptics are ignorant, irrational idiots. I teach at an engineering school, and about one third of my students identify themselves as global-warming sceptics. They tend to know more about global warming than students who accept it as a fact. Two sources at the Science Times section of the New York Times have told me that a majority of the section's editorial staff doubts that human-induced global warming represents a serious threat to humanity.

- John Horgan, Scientific American

Do we want a work-free Sunday?

A written declaration has been tabled in the European parliament, calling for "work-free Sundays" across the board, and this has prompted some debate in our office. Is this proposal an unwarranted restriction of personal freedom, or is it a welcome step towards a return to family life and values? My two assistants put forward their cases....

The case against a work-free Sunday, by Joe

This idea is nothing new -- back in 1996 the European Court of Justice found that a Europe-wide 'day of rest' could not be linked to health and safety concerns. So it makes little sense to now justify this idea on the basis of safety in the workplace. Far better, surely, to simply call for all employees to be granted a minimum of one work-free day a week without stipulating which one? For a supposedly secular body, why would the proposed day be that of the Christian's day of rest? Why not the traditional Jewish Shabbat Saturdays, or the Islamic Friday day of prayer? Or better yet still, simply allow citizens to determine their own work patters according to their religion, employment needs and personal wishes? The last thing we need is more dictation from on high over the way we run our lives. Retailers are generally in favour of Sunday opening and against a work-free Sunday.

The case for a work-free Sunday, by Donna

Sunday is already enshrined by EU law as the day of rest for all children and adolescents. In addition, many businesses, be they shops, services, or public sector institutions including this Parliament, are already closed on Sundays. Many of these premises employ people from faiths other than Christianity, with no difficulties arising from Sunday being the day set aside for rest. If we really want a society which places the family back in its centre, rather than commercialism, it makes sense to have a universal day of rest in which families can come together, rather than subjecting parents, adult children, brothers and sisters to the whims of employers. Trade Unions argue that employees, especially shop workers, are unduly pressured into working on Sundays when they would prefer family time.

We would like to hear your views on this subject. Do you think Sundays should be enshrined as a universal day of rest? Or would you rather simply see a recommendation for a day or rest, or even no recommendation at all? Do let us know.

Recent blog entries: [email protected]

Don't trust those computer models!

Education may be the jewel in the crown Why Michael Gove is right on education policy

How far should business influence policy?

Human Rights in North Korea: Blog post plus video of speech

Let's support the European Commission! Why the Commission is frequently less wrong than the European parliament

Obama strikes oil on the road to Damascus A change of heart on off-shore exploration. Drill, Baby, Drill!

The Fernie Hunt team chase

And a great blog from John Redwood

Worth reading. See it here.


That's it from Straz this month. We'll be back next month – when I shall be free to comment on the result of the General Election. In the meantime, don't forget to visit this website, follow me on twitter @RogerHelmerMEP, and post a comment on my blog at http://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com.