STRAIGHT TALKING February/2 2016
Roger Helmer’s electronic newsletter from Brussels
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This is a bonus issue for February — from Brussels, and between two Strasbourg sessions. There’s just so much going on with the Brexit campaign, and I try to keep my newsletters down to around eight pages.
Independence Day: June 23rd
Battle is joined. On June 23rd, we can either capitulate, and crawl back to Brussels with our tails between our legs. If we do that, Brussels will take us for granted. There will be no more pretence of reform. Or we can reclaim our birth-right as free citizens in a proud, sovereign, independent, democratic United Kingdom — a great global trading nation. The choice is ours. Let’s use it wisely.
I’m delighted that Boris Johnson — plus of course Michael Gove and other government ministers — have come out for Brexit. It’s time to put party issues aside for four months, and join hands and link arms with all those who will fight for our country’s freedom and independence.
But I am shocked that our Prime Minister is excluding those Brexit supporters in his cabinet from relevant briefings. This marks a new low in British politics. Nasty, unfair, disgraceful. Dave should be ashamed of himself.
Lord Lawson on the EU
On February 18th the Telegraph published a compelling article from former Chancellor Lord Lawson. Well worth reading in full, but I have to share a couple of points:
Economics of the EU: “It brings no economic benefit, for the European Union has never been an economic project. It has always been a political project, with a political objective which we in the UK do not share. That is the fundamental reason, above all others, why we must vote to leave”.
What is the alternative? “I have been asked ‘What, then, is your alternative to being in the EU?’. A more foolish question is hard to imagine. The alternative to being in the EU is not being in the EU. Most of the world is not in the EU — and most of the world is doing better than the EU”.
At the Conference of Presidents meeting on Feb 16th (I was standing in for Nigel), I made the following comment on Cameron’s “renegotiation”: “The commitments regarding EU renegotiation in the Conservative Manifesto on which Mr. Cameron’s government was elected were not enough to match the aspirations of the British people. The demands Cameron made for his renegotiation did not match the manifesto commitments. The draft agreement which Mr. Tusk produced did not match Cameron’s demands. The deal we expect on Friday will be less than the Tusk draft. And you expect the British people to vote for it?”.
As I write (Feb 17th), Prime Minister David Cameron is, like Oliver Twist, asking for more. And being told he can’t have it.
Jungle camps in Kent
Let’s look at Cameron’s “Jungle camps” scaremongering in a little more detail. Two points. First of all, no one arriving in England from France is entitled to claim asylum in the UK. France is a safe country. The migrant should have claimed asylum in France, or in an earlier safe transit country.
Secondly, we can, should and must control our borders – which we shall be able to do after Brexit. At the moment, if someone arrives by air at a British airport without the proper papers, they are put back on the plane and it is the carrier’s responsibility to return them to their starting point. We must apply the same rules to other carriers, especially ships and trains.
As an island nation, we are far better placed to control our borders than continental countries are. Those countries have extensive land borders which are difficult to control. If Cameron is saying that his government is unable to control our borders after Brexit, that’s downright incompetence. He should quit, and we should elect a government with the will and the ability to do a proper job.
Foreign Secretary’s own goal
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has made a speech warning of one of the dangers of Brexit: populist movements in other EU member states may also demand referendums, and the whole project could fall apart.
As Steve Baker, Co-Chairman of Conservatives for Britain, remarked, Mr. Hammond’s remarks reflect “a profound lack of confidence in the European project across Europe”. Hammond has practically admitted that the European project lacks democratic legitimacy. He is making the Eurosceptic case for us. He should perhaps also remember that as a British Minister his job is to consider the benefits of Brexit for Britain – not the problems it might raise for Brussels.
In fact I think that Hammond is right – but in a good way. A couple of years after Brexit, other member states will see how Britain is faring as an independent nation, and they may indeed decide to follow. Brexit could see the collapse of the EU as we know it. And the outcome could be a Europe of independent, democratic nation states, trading freely and cooperating voluntarily together. A consummation devoutly to be wished.
Cameron loses respect
I used to have a high regard for David Cameron. I thought he was a euroscepetic. I voted for him as leader of the Tory party in 2005. But I’m afraid my respect for him has taken a series of knocks.
First of all, he set himself up for failure when he offered to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU, confident that he would come back with something of substance. Those of us engaged in the EU on a daily basis knew that this was Mission Impossible, and we have been proved right. He came back with practically nothing. He faced the unpalatable choice (for him), of either trying to sell the British voter a lemon – or doing a U-turn and backing Brexit. The second would be an honourable course. But predictably, he has now taken the first option. I hope you like lemons.
He should be ashamed of his suggestion that after Brexit his government would be unable to control immigration in the UK, with his “Jungle Camps” scare story.
And the third issue that undermines his position is his manœuvering to get Barack Obama and other foreign leaders to endorse the Remain campaign. Brexit is a decision for the British people alone, and it is a sad thing to see our head of government calling on foreign leaders to support his position.
Democracy in the EU?
I read a comment recently on Twitter: “The EU has replaced a lot of small fascist states with one big Fascist State”. It’s a very punchy sound-bite, but even I wouldn’t quite characterise the EU as a fascist state. Unaccountable, unrepresentative, unresponsive, anti-democratic, corporatist, dirigiste, given to high-flown ideas that simply don’t work in practice, like the €uro and Schengen – yes. But not quite fascist – or at least, not yet.
I’d say that the EU was more like a Potemkin Village. A paper-thin façade designed to give a spurious illusion of democratic accountability, while hiding the reality of a technocratic bureaucracy with an ingrained contempt for ordinary people and their opinions We think of the EU as a German-dominated construct, but the mind-set of the bureaucrats is pure French énarque.
And speaking of democracy, I’d like your advice and comment on a dilemma which I hope never to have to face – but best to be prepared! I have increasing confidence that we can win the forthcoming EU referendum, given the resounding failure of David Cameron’s “renegotiation”. But if we lose, there is every probability that the Cameron package (such as it is – or will be by then) will come up for a vote in the European parliament.
There is such annoyance and frustration in Brussels with the British position that I think it quite likely that the package would be voted down whatever I and my UKIP colleagues do. But we have to vote, and the vote will be recorded. Let me offer a rationale for both a Yes and a No vote.
YES: We should vote yes to support a package which (by then) will have the majority support of the British people. It would be an abuse of democracy to vote against a deal which the British people had just approved in the referendum which we ourselves had demanded.
NO: The package is a snare and a delusion. It offers essentially no change. If it were blocked in Brussels, it would surely re-open the question of membership, since the deal for which the people had voted would no longer be available.
Advice please. What would you do?
Cameron’s contempt for the grassroots
David Cameron sometimes overdoes the arrogance. But even I was a bit surprised when he told his MPs to ignore their constituency parties over the EU referendum. No wonder the Tory grass-roots are up in arms. It was even more remarkable when he told the MPs to ignore personal advantage (in cosying up to their selectorate) and vote with their hearts. Is he not even aware that most Tory MPs are, in their hearts, eurosceptic? Here is a case when toeing the same line as the constituency association will generally agree with their own deepest convictions.
But a fundamental problem of the Conservative Party is the gulf between the leadership and the led. The Conservative Party is broadly eurosceptic (Ken Clarke not withstanding). That is why Conservative members and activists selected me to head their East Midlands MEP list not once but three times. Yet Cameron, who presented himself as a eurosceptic (for heaven’s sake, I voted for him in the leadership election), is now revealed as a sell-out Europhile, campaigning to remain in the EU at any price. And to cap it all, his renegotiated package is downright mendacious. He’s pretending it’s substantial, when in terms of realpolitik it is simply nothing at all.
As Simon Heffer put it so trenchantly in his Sunday Telegraph column, David Cameron is “determined to sell out by urging acceptance of a ‘deal’ that changes almost nothing, and addresses none of the fundamental problems with the corrupt, anti-democratic, soviet-style EU”.
It was that gulf between the eurosceptic Tory grassroots, and the essentially Europhile leadership, that led me to leave the Conservative Party back in early 2012. After Cameron’s sell-out on his fake renegotiation, I suspect many more Tories will follow.
MEPs must try harder
On Feb 6th, a certain David Gent wrote to the Telegraph complaining that no MEPs (apart, he said, from Dan Hannan and Nigel Farage) bothered to tell their constituents, or the country, what was going on in Europe.
As an MEP of seventeen years standing, I reflect that I publish a free monthly electronic newsletter (you’re reading a copy now). I have a web-site and a blog,. I Tweet frequently on @RogerHelmerMEP. I have appeared regularly on the BBC’s Stephen Nolan Show, and I am frequently on LBC Radio, plus of course many local radio stations in my East Midlands region. I publish regular columns on local papers. My speeches in parliament are published here.
In addition, I retain (along with my colleague Margot Parker MEP) a full-time press officer based in the region. I occasionally appear on television, including two recent appearances on the panel of BBC Question Time.
Generally speaking I can say that my UKIP MEP colleagues are doing much the same, and seizing every media opportunity that comes their way. If Mr. David Gent thinks he can do a better job, maybe he should apply to become an MEP himself. Although he’d better hurry up. With luck, there will be no UK MEPs after 2019.
EU referendum public debate at the University of Derby
There is an EU debate booked for Friday March 11th 6.30pm for a 7pm start
• Professor Kathryn Mitchell, University of Derby (Chair)
• Nigel Baxter, Business for Britain
• Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP
• Roger Helmer MEP
• Rt Hon Dame Margaret Beckett MP
Reserve your seat (free) here
Historians for Britain
I was given some literature on my recent visit to Vote Leave in London, amongst which was a substantial booklet under the ægis of “Historians for Britain”, and entitled “Peace-makers or credit takers? — The EU and peace in Europe”. A remarkably provocative title, when you think about it. There are contributions from highly-reputed historians, including Andrew Roberts. A couple of quotes from the back cover give the flavour:
Professor Gwythian Prins, LSE: “The myth that the EU and not the Western Alliance has kept the peace in Europe needs to be nailed firmly and squarely before the coming referendum, and the historians in this book do so in well-researched detail. Our forthcoming referendum must be fought and won on facts, not lazy sound-bites”.
Dr. Robert Crowcroft, University of Edinburgh: “The notion that the peace of Europe was guaranteed by the institutions of the EU was always utter nonsense:
Dr. Ted Bromund, Yale: The great wars of Europe were caused by efforts to unify the continent under a single régime. It was the democratic nation-state and the West’s need to stand united against the Soviet Union that brought peace to Europe after 1945. The European Union, another mistaken effort to unify the continent, is a consequence of that peace, not a cause of it.
Tories overspend in elections
I knew that Michael Crick, Channel 4 News’s indefatigable investigative journalist, must be useful for something — and not only for target practice by the redoubtable Godders with a rolled-up UKIP manifesto. And guess what! He (Crick) says he’s unearthed evidence that in a series of elections and by-elections, the Tories substantially exceeded the statutory spending limits, in some cases by tens of thousands.
The methods they used (says Mr. Crick — I make no allegation) was to fail to report extensive hotel bookings used by activists, and (reportedly) in one case to record a local paper wrap-around ad as national rather than local spending.
One of the by-elections concerned was Newark — where I was the runner-up candidate. But let’s not get too excited. I don’t think there’s any question of a re-run. There’s been a General Election since the by-election anyway. But I suspect that a complaint may well be lodged with the police on the basis of the Channel Four reports. A very large Tory over-spend was reported in South Thanet — where Nigel came so close to winning. The Conservative Party may end up with its knuckles rapped.
Two Brexit issues that came up today (Feb 24th)
Military leaders warn against Brexit: The government is pulling in its patronage and its pay-roll vote. Yesterday we saw the letter from FTSE-100 CEOs – though against the promised eighty, in the end only thirty-six signed. Today it’s the turn of the military. They say that Britain is better able to deal with threats like ISIS while we remain in the EU. They don’t explain why.
After Brexit, Anglo-French military cooperation (which is outside the scope of EU institutions) will continue, as the most significant military relationship within Europe. Our NATO membership will continue, and is the guarantee of our joint security. By contrast, the EU makes very little contribution to security – indeed it undermines it, for example by deliberately provoking Russia in the Ukraine. It is difficult to think of any circumstance where the EU itself has contributed to security. Its impotence in the face of the immigration crisis is a case in point.
We have other cooperation in Europe, including sharing of intelligence, and police cooperation. This however will continue on an intergovernmental basis where it is beneficial to both parties.
Exchange rate turbulence: There has been some recent softening of the Sterling exchange rate, and there is little doubt that Brexit and Boris Johnson’s declaration for Brexit are factors. Markets are notoriously driven by sentiment and the herd instinct, rather than by logic. Much of this can be blamed on the scaremongering of the Remain camp, and their grotesque exaggeration of the supposed risks. There will certainly be some market turbulence – perhaps some buying opportunities – associated with the UK’s departure from the EU. But stability will return as soon the doom-mongers notice that the sky is not falling.
After Brexit, the British economy will perform strongly, markets will recover, and indeed we can expect other member states to demand referenda and seek to follow the UK’s example.
It is ironical to reflect that Central Banks around the world are today looking for ways to bring down their currencies in the interests of competitive devaluation. Generally they have great difficulty doing so, since with interest rates at rock bottom the primary tool for bringing down a currency’s value is denied them. In this context, the softening of Sterling can be seen as a blessing in disguise. It should certainly help the UK’s balance of payments.
Recent Committee Speeches
My intervention in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO): “Not such a done deal after all“.
And again in AFCO: Brok Report makes nonsense of Cameron’s “ever closer union” opt-out.
Then in the Industry Committee ITRE on energy policy.
Quote of the Month
Albert Einstein: Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.
Whom to follow?
Don’t you just hate Twitter’s bad grammar? “Who (sic) to follow”! Dreadful. But please consider following the IDDE, http://iddeurope.org/ the Think Tank associated with our EFDD parliamentary group athttps://twitter.com/IDDEinEnglish.
Also have a look at the UKIP MEP web-site www.ukipmeps.org