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Straight Talking - June 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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The €nd is Nigh!

I hope you enjoyed the "€nd is Nigh" cartoon in last month's Newsletter. Of course Cameron and Hague are right to point out that the impending collapse of the €uro will do the UK no favours, since something like half our trade is done with the euro-zone.

But the fact remains that many of us have been arguing for years that the euro-zone (like the Soviet Union before it) contained the seeds of its own destruction; that it could not survive in its present form. We were ridiculed by the true believers and europhiles (like Bill Turncoat Dunn). For a number of years they pointed out that the euro was doing just fine. Where was the Apocalypse that the sceptics had promised?

Now they have their answer. It's here. And it's now.

For Greece, and Spain, it's not just a question of radical spending cuts and grinding deflation for years -- though that would be bad enough, and probably unsustainable in political terms. No. It's worse than that. Even to hold steady and to service their existing debt burden, they need economic growth. But the deflation and spending cuts they are required to implement will cause their economies to shrink. Default looms. There's no way out.

I rarely have a good word for the late but unlamented Gordon Brown. He has left our own country with an appalling legacy of debt, and we shall face our own austerity programme. But the one good decision he made was to keep us out of the euro, and he deserves credit for that. Sterling is our Get-Out-of-Jail card, which is denied to Greece and Spain . All this brings me to my riddle:

Riddle: Why is the euro like climate change?

Roger Bootle, a Telegraph columnist and Managing Director of Capital Economics, is one of the UK ’s most respected economists. He was also, as it happens, one of the key speakers at my first Climate Conference in Brussels in April 2007.

In a Telegraph article on June 7th, he talked at length about Gordon Brown’s vital decision to keep Britain out of the euro – one of the very few good decisions that Gordon made (http://is.gd/cNAEi ). And he asks whether there is an issue of similar consequence facing our new government. Let me quote:

“There doesn't have to be a parallel to the euro issue for the current government, but I think that there is – climate change. Again this has a European and a quasi-religious aspect to it. There are both fervent adherents and sceptics within the Cabinet. The UK is committed to incurring enormous costs to meet ambitious targets for reducing CO2 emissions at a time of economic stringency at home, and when large parts of the world are hell-bent on emission-creating economic growth. Scepticism about man-made climate change is growing and, despite the position of the Prime Minister, the orthodoxy may well be overturned at some point”.

And yet we have our Climate Change Minister, Lib-Dem MP and former MEP Chris Huhne, not content with the EU’s current commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020, but urging an even more aggressive target of 30%. This sets our new coalition government in conflict with our major EU partners, who have mostly reacted with horror at the idea of an even more fanciful and damaging target. Truly it was said, “Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad”.

A week in Korea

I’ve just got back from a week in South Korea , with the European parliament’s Interparliamentary Delegation. Checking my records, I am astonished to find it’s fully five years since I was last there. We’d planned to go to the North as well, but with the new sabre-rattling over the sinking of the frigate Cheonan, we decided it was better to miss Pyongyang. Apparently the NKs are furious, and won’t let us back during this parliament. 

Nearly twenty years ago I was living and working in Korea , and at that time it was possible to see it as a developing country with more development to do. Not any more. It is a thriving, prosperous, vibrant modern democracy, at the leading edge of a range of technologies, and taking its rightful place amongst the advanced nations.

We had wall-to-wall meetings. The bus came for us before eight, and got us back to the hotel around ten at night, so there was no sitting by the pool (though we did take half an hour out to visit the Bongeunsa Temple complex). See my recent blog. We met the leaders of the two main parties; the Foreign Minister and Trade Minister; the newly-elected National Assembly Speaker; and many Assembly members; plus local and foreign businessmen and companies, the EU Chamber of Commerce; and NGOs working in the area of Human Rights, especially with regard to the North. We missed the Prime Minister only because of an unforeseen last-minute change in his schedule. There is a selection of photos taken during the visit.

We talked about the Cheonan incident and the increased tensions in the Korean peninsula and East Asia; the NKs’ nuclear programme and the Six Party Talks; the appalling human rights situation in the North; and the vitally important EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement, on which we will be voting in the European parliament very soon.

There is far more to say about the visit than I can pack into a newsletter, but I have written up a number of aspects on my blog at www.rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com. There are articles on Human Rights, on EU Trade Promotion initiatives, on the Korean perspective on the euro-crisis, and on the prospects for electric vehicles following our visit to a Samsung/Bosch battery joint venture.

During my visit, I noticed a press report on some of the typically splenetic propaganda put out by the North following the Cheonan incident. Of course the North denies involvement – they always do – but the fact that the incident occurred close to disputed waters, that the explosion was outside the hull, not inside, and that the remains of a North Korean torpedo were found on the seabed near the frigate, does rather tell its own story. As one commentator said after reviewing the evidence, “It was either the North Koreans or the Martians”.

In their propaganda, the NKs refer to “Lee and his traitorous band”. By “Lee”, they mean the President of the Republic of Korea, Lee Myung Bak. The idea that the South, whose economy is perhaps forty times the size of the North, can be a renegade province, is bizarre. Tail wags dog. And while I did not meet the President, I did meet a large number of distinguished Korean politicians, and I found them courteous, approachable, serious, responsible, and deeply committed to the principles of democracy and free trade. The absurd and intemperate language of the North only serves to confirm that the clique around the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, is a bunch of psychopaths and misfits.

United States of Europe? Never!

My excellent friend and colleague Derk Jan Eppink is one of the soundest, and one of the most interesting, MEPs in the parliament. A Dutchman representing Belgium , he has also been a staffer in the parliament, and a journalist, and has served in the Cabinets of two Commissioners, so he knows the system from every angle -- and he doesn't like what he sees.

So I was fairly horrified to see he'd written a book entitled "Bonfire of Bureaucracy in Europe", with a sub-title "Plea for a United States of Europe" (or so I thought at first glance). But when I berated him, he pointed out that it was in fact "a United Europe of States", or as we might put it, "A Europe of Nations".

His theme is simple: the EU has subverted democracy by taking power from the people and vesting it in an unaccountable and unresponsive political-bureaucratic complex, ever more isolated from the people it claims to represent. He calls for tax-payers to bite back, and has created an on-line petition at www.noeutax.eu. The publisher is at www.lanoo.com.

Some quotes:

"The machine has huge weight, but there is no counterweight; there is no legitimate opposition, not even the EU parliament. This allows the machine to steam-roller forward .... more bureaucracy, more legislation, more money, more Europe"

"Each year, the European parliament awards to Sakharov Prize to encourage dissidents all over the world -- but it refuses to tolerate dissidence in its own house"

"Everybody wants to bathe in the same warm bath of consensus"

"Reducing energy consumption will help, but only nuclear power is capable of producing the levels of energy to break Europe's reliance on external foreign supply"

"Tax reduction is indisputably a more effective political instrument than subsidies, but no bureaucracy in the world will ever admit that. For them, subsidies mean power"

Quote of the Month

"This (euro crisis) can end in only two ways. Either Germany tolerates massive monetary reflation by the ECB, or Spain will be forced out of EMU, setting off a catastrophic chain-reaction through northern Europe's banking system. Your choice, Berlin".

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (again).

Chris Heaton-Harris makes his Maiden Speech

Former East Midlands MEP Chris Heaton-Harris was elected as MP for Daventry on May 6th, and has now made his Maiden Speech in the House of Commons. In it, he highlighted the rash of wind-farms breaking out all over the region (the full speech can be accessed here).

I wish him the best of luck, and look forward to more excellent speeches like this!

"Yelvertoft, Crick, Preston Capes, Hanging Houghton, Maidwell, Draughton, Lilbourne, Watford, Winwick and West Haddon are all stunning villages in my constituency, but they are also linked by the fact that every one of them has, or has had, proposed planning applications for wind farms with turbines of up to 126.5 metres tall, which is almost the height of the London Eye. The total number of turbines suggested for this small swathe of my constituency is 53.

"This debate is about energy, and I must mention the folly that is onshore wind energy. Not only does it dramatically change the nature of the landscape for ever-and as we have very little beautiful English countryside left, so we should try to treasure the bit we have-but it does little to help us in our battle to reduce carbon emissions. Leaving aside the damage these turbines do visually, I believe that science is not on the side of this sort of wind power. We still need to have the ability to produce 100% of our energy requirements by other means for those times when the wind is not blowing, and when the wind does stop, there is plenty of research suggesting that firing up gas and coal power stations quickly to take the slack created by the wind stopping burns those fuels so inefficiently that much of the good that has just been done is undone. I also hope Ministers will give better planning guidance to local councils that have to deal with these matters. That guidance should perhaps borrow an idea from our European friends: a 2 km exclusion zone, meaning that no turbine can be constructed within 2 km of any dwelling.

"I am a great believer in renewable, sustainable and locally produced solutions to our energy problems of the future. Plenty of miscanthus grass is grown as a true biofuel across my constituency. I also believe we have to face up to the fact that nuclear energy must play a part in the medium and long term."

Cross-border Congratulations

Following last month's congratulations offered to new MPs in the East Midlands, I'd like to add a congratulation to Dan Byles, who managed to wrestle North Warwickshire away from Labour with a majority of just 54 votes. As one voter in the region said "it makes me feel my vote was worthwhile". Well done, Dan.

Proposed energy levy is a two-fold mistake

The Times Online reported towards the end of May that the Treasury is considering an extra levy to utility bills in order to finance so-called "Green Energy". The story can be found here. An essential component to creation of the Lib-Con's Green Investment bank would be to raise capital by applying a £2 per megawatt hour levy on wholesale electricity prices - which translates to roughly £1000 per household, per year to light up their homes. 

I have long been sceptical of the generating capability of most renewables, with the exception of our proven nuclear power network. However, the U.K. 's coal, gas and nuclear power plants are in dire need up of updating - a process which, under normal revenue streams, would not be a problem for plant operators. But the more cash we allocate toward ineffective and overly expensive technologies such as wind power the less is available to modify our existing infrastructure.

So the effects of this ill-advised tax is two-fold: It will not only raise the bills of every citizen of the United Kingdom, but it will adversely effect an otherwise reasonable energy policy based on coal and natural gas found in abundance and proven to be effective and cheap. 

A Rare Victory in the Parliament

You'll be pleased to know that there was a rare piece of good news from the Parliament recently. Despite the best efforts of the Green MEPs and the anti-hunting lobby, MEPs voted in the May Plenary to clarify that the EU treaties do not confer any competence by the EU over wild animal welfare. Instead, laws that regulate wild animal welfare will be left to the discretion of member countries. This was of vital importance as any welfare legislation covering wild animals could have affected hunting.

FACE (Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation of the EU), have written a press release that explains the vote and its implications in more detail. It can be read here. (pdf format)

More good news!

The BBC is reporting that The Royal Society is reviewing its public statements on climate change, followed by a complaint by 43 of its members that not enough distinction was being drawn between what the science agrees on, and what is still debatable. The full story can be accessed here.

Climategate and the Scientific Elite

In a recent article, Iain Murray (of the Competitive Enterprise Institute) contrasted the objectivity of the UK's General Medical Council in dealing with Dr. Andrew Wakefield on the MMR issue, with the politicisation of climate science which has allowed CRU scientists to get away with murder, and led to several comprehensive whitewashes in so-called "enquiries". It's an excellent article.

Interesting Findings from the Institute of Energy Research, Germany

The Institute of Energy Research in Germany has released a report entitled Economic impacts from the promotion of renewable energies: The German experience.

Their findings make for interesting reading, as they argue that "German renewable energy policy, and in particular the adopted feed-in tariff scheme, has failed to harness the market incentives needed to ensure a viable and cost-effective introduction of renewable energies into the country’s energy portfolio. To the contrary, the government’s support mechanisms have in many respects subverted these incentives, resulting in massive expenditures that show little long-term promise for stimulating the economy, protecting the environment, or increasing energy security. In the case of photovoltaics, Germany ’s subsidization regime has reached a level that by far exceeds average wages, with per-worker subsidies as high as 175,000 € (US $ 240,000)".

The full report (in English) can be found here, (pdf format).

A Blogging milestone – total hits pass the 100,000 mark

My blog has been running for a couple of years, and there’s a running total of cumulative hits on the blog. It’s been creeping up, and this month it’s passed the 100,000 mark – quite a milestone. So many thanks to all my readers, and if you haven’t visited, it’s at www.rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com. OK, so I know that my good friend and colleague Dan Hannan gets 100,000 hits in a fortnight, but 100,000 still feels good to me!

And another quote!

Wind power is free. But it's by no means cheap!

Art Appreciation -- Sharing the Joy

Back in 1959, I was fifteen. And I was awarded a School Prize, and invited to choose an appropriate book. To my eternal shame, I chose 1940s Chick-Lit. Honest.

I had come across "The Eliots of Damerosehay", by Elizabeth Goudge, in a rented bungalow on a wet family holiday on the Norfolk Broads, and I had rather enjoyed it. I got the whole trilogy for a school prize, and a quarter of a century later had the book re-bound in leather in Bangkok (that's another story). Mentioned several times in the trilogy is a picture hanging in a bedroom used by one of the characters. It's Van Gogh's "Cornfield with a Lark".

That picture had been in my mind, merely as an idea, for half a century. I'd never seen it. Then a few weeks ago I looked it up on the Internet, and found it on a web-site called www.oldmastersonline.com, which I have used once or twice (by the way I have no financial interest in the business!). See it at http://www.oldmastersonline.com/e/002914/F680.php

It's a great picture, so I ordered a copy, which is now hanging in my office in Brux, and a fifty year idea is there in black and white -- or rather in glorious Technicolor. By the way, the quality and range of pictures on that site is remarkable -- worth a visit. I'd already bought 'The Lady of Shallot" (Waterhouse) for myself, and "The Boyhood of Raleigh" (Millais) for a relative.

I must get a photo of the picture with my former colleague (and now lobbyist) Olly Kaye. With his short ginger hair and ginger stubble, he's a dead ringer for Van Gogh. Except he's got one ear too many.


That's it from Straz this month. We'll be back next month. 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.