STRAIGHT TALKING January 2015
Roger Helmer’s electronic newsletter from Strasbourg
Please feel free to distribute this newsletter, or to quote from it. It is primarily written for euro-realists in the East Midlands, but may also be of interest to others concerned about the climate debate, or 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Happy New Year 2015
Every General Election is hyped as “the most important for a generation”. But the 2015 General Election on May 7th has a better claim than most. It’s the least predictable. It could mark the final demise of the two-party system in our country. And we expect it to be UKIP’s break-through year – just about sixteen weeks away as I write. Let’s make it happen – and make it a very happy new year.
We’re all Charlie now
I haven’t commented so far on the events in France, partly because there has been so much comment elsewhere, on every angle, and partly because the atrocities were so horrible that it’s difficult to find the words. But I should like at least to commend the French people for their steadfast commitment to free speech and a free press — something that I hope that David Cameron bore in mind when he attended the Paris March on January 11th.
I believe that the majority of Muslims in the UK are decent folk who will be as outraged by the French atrocities as anyone else — perhaps more so, because they will be concerned about a possible back-lash. But the fact remains — we know from reports by the security services — that there are at least several hundred British Muslims (mostly young, mostly male), and perhaps more, who support Islamist Jihad and Islamist terrorism. Nigel Farage attracted some criticism recently when he referred to these people as “a Fifth Column in our society”. This is a fair topic for debate. But it’s not a debate about the external reality — broadly speaking, we know what that is. It’s a semantic debate about how we choose to use the term “Fifth Column”. My view, for what it’s worth, is that Nigel’s use of the term was perfectly fair and reasonable.
After my appearance on Newsnight on Dec 16th, setting out the reasons why we had created our Alliance of parties in Europe, I received a very aggressive letter from a constituent arguing that EU funding was there to promote the European project, and it was wrong that this money went to “a fringe group that wants to isolate and segregate Europe citizens”. I replied in the following terms:
Thank you for your view. But you are entirely mistaken. The EU funding is available to established political groups in the parliament to assist them in their work in several pre-defined ways. There is absolutely nothing in the rules to say that the group has to take any particular view on EU integration in order to qualify. If there were, of course we should never have got the money. And any such restriction would be an affront to democracy.
The money is in large part British taxpayers’ money. We are the second largest net contributor in the EU. And we get back merely a fraction of what we pay in – the relatively small amount that our group will get doesn’t affect that balance. The EU has no money of its own – only what is given by the member states. And they only have what they take from taxpayers. It’s our money, and we want it back.
You mention “a fringe group”. Our group is properly established under the rules of the parliament that apply to any group. You object to my approach on behalf of residents of the East Midlands, so please explain to me why far more of those residents voted for UKIP MEPs – and therefore for me — in May this year than voted for any other party.
The East Midlands does not “benefit from EU funding”, nor does the UK as a whole. Broadly speaking every pound we get back from Brussels costs the UK economy around £3. We are out-of-pocket on the deal. They give us back a little of our own money; they tell us what to do with it; and then they expect us to be grateful.
I do not recognise your reference to “isolating and segregating”. That is no part of our policy.
All the information to which you are entitled on my voting participation and record, and my speeches, is available on the EP web-site at www.europarl.europa.eu. You can look it up for yourself. My expenses can be found on the UKIP MEPs’ website. And you can find my position on key issues in my blog. I am certainly not about to write you a detailed account of my work over fifteen years. Yours etc. Roger Helmer.
Green Policies increase emissions
I recently came across a web-site that offered twelve ways to deal with those pesky climate change deniers that you were likely to meet in the bar on holiday. And I was struck by a suggested question for the scientifically illiterate denier. Ask them this: “What’s worse, the majority of climate change scientists being wrong but we act anyway, or climate change deniers being wrong and we don’t?”
In fact the first option is clearly the worst.
Most economic analyses (except the Stern Report, which is shot through with errors) find that mitigation costs exceed any damage that inaction might do (even if the IPCC is right). And mitigation costs are heavily front-loaded. We spend trillions now, in the fond hope that we might make a difference in fifty or a hundred years. By the time we prove the IPCC was wrong, the money is long gone.
Secondly, CO2 emissions will keep going up whatever we do. There are 1200 new coal-fired power stations in the global pipeline. For decades we’ve been unable to do a global emissions deal. “Peak Oil” is receding over the horizon, and oil prices are coming down.
But thirdly: the biggest objection to the green policies we’ve legislated for is that they don’t reduce emissions, they merely drive energy-intensive industries out of the UK (and the EU), taking their jobs and their investments with them. And frequently they go to jurisdictions with lower environmental standards, and so arguably increase global emissions.
These are futile policies which damage our economy, drive industries off-shore, force households and pensioners into fuel poverty, and may well increase emissions at the same time. Gesture politics may make Ed Davey feel good, but they severely damage the rest of us. And they do nothing for the environment.
For more detail, see my blog.
Good point, Mr. Longworth
John Longworth, the Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has written to political leaders (including, I believe, Nigel Farage) asking them to avoid “tawdry politics” in the run-up to next May’s General Election. He fears that careless talk and casual commitments could damage business confidence — indeed the 2015 election is widely regarded as the most open for decades, and this in itself has created uncertainty amongst BCC members.
I was particularly struck by one of Mr. Longworth’s phrases: “You must focus on the causes, not the symptoms, of the challenges that face our United Kingdom”. Few would disagree, though the problem as always is that different political parties have very different analyses of the causes of problems. Was the recent financial crisis caused by excessive lending and the irresponsibility of bankers? By loose monetary policy from central banks? By the disaster of the €uro currency? (All of the above, probably — but different politicians would emphasise different angles).
The thing is that many of the problems facing the UK (and Mr. Longworth’s members) today are a direct result of our EU membership. Over-regulation. Energy prices. Immigration (OK, it may offer businesses the advantage of low wages as mass immigration forces wage compression — but everyone, including Mr. Longworth’s members and their employees, suffers from the pressure on housing and house prices, on welfare and health and hospitals, and schools, and — yes — roads and transport infrastructure).
And only UKIP has practical policies to deal with these problems. First we have to leave the EU. Then we can have deregulation, lower energy prices, a rational immigration policy, and so much more.
For more detail, see my blog.
A letter to the Nottingham Evening Post
Professor Joanna Haigh of Imperial College is quite right to say that I am not a scientist (though I do have a Cambridge maths degree and a fairly good layman’s grasp of scientific principles). She might like to note first of all that I am a politician, and as such I am frequently obliged to form a view, and to vote, on issues that have a significant scientific component. If Prof Haigh wants to exclude all non-scientists from decision-making on such issues, she has just sounded the death-knell of democracy.
Secondly she might like to note that we are dealing here with climate science, and despite the nonsense claim of a “97% consensus”, the fact is that there are wide divergences of view amongst scientists. I have personally worked with expert reviewers from the IPCC panel itself who profoundly disagree with the IPCC conclusions. Prof Fred Singer of the University of Virginia says “The IPCC accepted my corrections to its punctuation — but not to its science”. One such reviewer, Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, had to threaten to sue the IPCC to have his name removed from a section of the report with which he disagreed.
In these circumstances I as a politician have to take an informed view and decide and vote accordingly, and in forming that view I take account of the fact that IPCC predictions of global temperature have been repeatedly falsified by the data, and that there has been no additional warming for nearly two decades.
Yours etc. Roger Helmer.
Well said Mr. Carswell!
Our new UKIP MP Douglas Carswell has reportedly said that UKIP needs to show an “inclusive face” and not blame immigrants for Britain’s problems. He added that dislike of foreigners is “not merely offensive, but absurd”. And for good measure he made a point of saying that “We should never make the mistake of blaming outsiders for the failings of insiders in Westminster”. Absolutely right. (Nor should we blame energy utilities for high energy prices that are the fault of legislators and regulators)
I think Douglas will find very few UKIP members who disagree with him. Until his celebrated election to Westminster, the centre of gravity of UKIP parliamentarians was of course in the European parliament. In Brussels, we employ many non-Brits (I hesitate even to use the word “foreigners” — these are good friends and colleagues, and they certainly don’t feel foreign). We work with them day-to-day. It’s become almost a cliché for me to add “My lead staffer in Brussels is Italian, and our Leader Nigel Farage is married to a German”.
And we are forging alliances with politicians from other European countries — the sort of people who may well be in government in their own countries, and may be useful contacts, after Independence Day. As Douglas rightly says, there is nothing splendid about isolation, and we are determined to remain good friends, allies and trading partners of continental nations after we leave the EU.
Of course it is a constant theme of our opponents that UKIP is “anti-foreigner”. Perversely, they seek to conflate a managed immigration policy with anti-foreign prejudice, when of course it is no such thing. Indeed the immigration policy operated by the Coalition today is profoundly discriminatory — it discriminates in favour of unskilled Eastern Europeans, and against highly qualified Commonwealth citizens. Mass immigration has created huge strains on our social cohesion and social infrastructure — but Douglas is right. We must blame the politicians who conceived and implemented the policy, not the immigrants who took advantage of it.
We have certainly had recent embarrassing examples of UKIP members making unacceptable comments, and (again, as Douglas says) we must show that these comments are unacceptable to our Party — and we do. And no doubt some UKIP members are attracted to the Party in the mistaken belief that “managed immigration” is a euphemism for anti-foreigner sentiment, despite all our efforts to explain otherwise.
It is important, however, both for our Party and for our ethnic-minority members, that we should avoid giving any impression that we allow any credence to the mistaken accusations of our opponents in this regard.
Free movement, single market
Recently people who should know better, including Owen Paterson the former Environment Minister, have been insisting that free trade with the EU implies free movement of people. EU politicians assert that “free trade implies free movement”, as though it were self-evident. In fact free trade negates the need for free movement, because the products of low-labour-cost areas can be supplied to other areas – you don’t need to move the workers. Our Trade Spokesman the Earl of Dartmouth has issued a useful statement on the question:
The EU has Free Trade Agreements with 46 partners that DO NOT INCLUDE THE “FREE MOVEMENT OF PEOPLE”, as per Article 45 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. If one also includes the EU’s Trade Agreements under the categories GSP and GSP+, the total of EU trade agreements becomes over 100. Trade arrangements under the GSP and GSP+ also do not include “Free Movement of People”.
There is also no “Free Movement of People” for the 3 countries – which include Turkey – which are in the EU Customs Union but are not EU Members.
In only 4 agreements those with Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland do the agreements stipulate “Free movement of People”. Further, the Eastern Partnership Trade Agreement which is partly enforced contains an aspiration for “visa liberalisation”.
The fact is that there are numerous kinds and types of EU trade agreements. The EU’s trade arrangements with just 4 exceptions do not encompass “Free Movement of People”. These are the facts. The evidence does not support the assertion that a future UK-EU trade agreement would have to have “Free Movement of People” per Article 45.
The folly of offshore wind
We knew that offshore wind was amazingly expensive. But just how expensive? An analysis by Paul Homewood on the web-site “Notalotofpeopleknowthat” reckons that the subsidy per unit will be nearly double the wholesale price of electricity. Based on expected capacity by 2022, that will amount to some £6 billion a year. Guaranteed for fifteen years.
Could it be worse than that? It is. Less than 20% of the projected capacity will be British-owned. So roughly £5 billion of that subsidy will simply go overseas – a huge loss to the British economy. We are undermining our economy, driving pensioners into fuel poverty, forcing energy-intensive industries offshore. And almost literally throwing billions of pounds away. All in the name of green gesture politics
Idiot of the Month
The prize goes to Richard Lochhead, Scotland’s Cabinet Member for Agriculture, Rural Affairs and the Environment, who says that an EU referendum is a threat to Scottish agriculture. He is concerned, of course, about the Common Agricultural Policy.
If he checked his facts, he’d understand that every pound we get back from the EU costs the British economy around £3. At that rate, a British farm support policy designed in Britain for British farmers would not only be more relevant than an EU policy designed in Brussels for French farmers. It could also afford to be more generous.
Recently on the Blog:
Back to the Future (with Sir Edward Garnier):
UKIP’s Paul Oakden goes head-to-head with senior Tory MP Sir Edward Garnier (Market Harborough) – and gives a good account of himself. Sir Edward said that (A) He was perfectly sure that Nigel Mills (the “Candy-Crush MP”) would hold Amber Valley, though he has a majority only around 600; and (B) that UKIP votes would let Labour in and give Ed Miliband the keys to Downing Street. Come on Sir Edward – which is it? They can’t both be right!
Paul came straight back pointing out that in Heywood and Middleton, a Labour seat where UKIP came a very close second, Tory votes had let Labour in. If a few hundred more Tories had switched to UKIP, Labour would have been out.
Cameron’s EU Game-Plan:
Does he really think he can get a serious re-negotiation? Of course not! So is he hoping to hype relatively trivial concessions? Or just trying to park the issue until after the General Election?
Smart metering chaos and waste:
A guest blog from Alex Henney on the problems with smart meters.
Six impossible things before breakfast:
Business leaders know that the €urozone is a basket case. So why are they so desperate to remain, in effect, shackled to a corpse?
Life is a terminal condition:
Dr. Richard Smith thinks that we should welcome cancer and stop looking for a cure. After all, we all have to die of something. I think he’s wrong.
Quote of the Month
From Jonathan Arnott MEP: “Every party has loons and bigots. It’s selective misrepresentation by media which singles out #UKIP @JonathanArnott”
Also have a look at the UKIP MEP web-site www.ukipmeps.org