NEWSLETTER – MARCH 2017

STRAIGHT TALKING                                March 2017

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 roger.helmer@europarl.europa.eu

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Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Rejoice!

As I write, on the morning of Tuesday March 14th, we know that the Brexit Bill has cleared its final hurdles in the Commons and the Lords, and Theresa May is now in a position to invoke Article 50.

I’ve been campaigning for British independence for twenty years – eighteen in the European parliament – so I hope, Dear Reader, you’ll forgive me a moment of quiet satisfaction.  Mission accomplished.  A seemingly impossible objective realised.  All of us who have engaged in the Brexit campaign can congratulate ourselves on a job well done.  It wouldn’t have happened without UKIP.

The Treasury gets it wrong. Twice.

During the Brexit campaign last year, the Treasury (along with many other organisations) made blood-curdling predictions about what would happen in the event of a Brexit vote.  Remember it was a prediction of immediate economic disaster after the vote – not problems down the line, maybe in two years after Article 50 was invoked.

The stock market, unemployment, interest rates, house prices would all be hit.

And they were wrong.  Utterly, totally, gloriously wrong.  In fact the great majority of indicators are looking very positive.  As I write, the Footsie has reached another record peak.  Employment, growth, inward investment all performing well.

Yet now we hear that a “leaked” report (intentionally leaked, I have no doubt) from the Treasury predicts exactly the same economic plagues – but this time, if we leave the EU on WTO terms – as would happen if we fail to reach a trade deal.. (Note: leave the EU.  Or escape.  Not “crash out” or “fall off a cliff)

Here we have those who wanted to stay in the EU – what shall we call them? Remainers? Remoaners? Remaniacs? Remnants? – trying again.  No doubt in five years’ time when the UK economy is outperforming the EU, they’ll still be saying “Just you wait!  It’ll end in tears – eventually!”.

Let’s remember that 100+ countries trade successfully with the EU on WTO terms, including the three largest suppliers into the EU – USA, Russia, China.  We would too, if no deal is reached.

£60 bn divorce settlement? No way!

We’ve all seen the proposals for a £60 billion “divorce settlement”.  The EU seems to base this on EU programmes, for which the UK (inter alia) has voted, which they say we must continue to fund.  I say “balderdash!”.

Imagine that last year you were a member of a golf club, and as a member you’d voted for a five-year refurbishment programme.  Then later you resigned.  Would you expect to keep paying your subs for five years after you’d quit?  Absurd.

Of course Brussels is panicking about the big drop in income they’ll face after Brexit.  But they’ll just have to cut their coat according to their cloth.

Good marks to Theresa May for her counter-proposal that we should demand £9 billion from the EU as the UK holding in the EIB.

Guy Verhofstadt auditions for Court Jester

Guy Verhofstadt MEP is leader of the liberal group in the EP and a former Prime Minister of Belgium.  He is a passionate Europhile, a true believer, and he has been appointed as the parliament’s point man on the Brexit negotiations.

He was recently on a BBC news programme, and to his credit he seemed to accept that the UK was leaving the EU (though he called it “a catastrophe”), and he admitted that a negotiated win-win deal would be in everyone’s interests.

But he also suggested a deal under which British citizens could apply to retain their EU citizenship after Brexit.  Of course this is merely mischievous and subversive.  He is seeking to drive a wedge between Leavers and Remainers in the UK, so as to foment division and unrest.

We could well ask if he would also consider letting continental EU citizens opt out of EU citizenship – say the Danes or the Dutch.  Certainly I spent some time trying to repudiate my EU citizenship, which I neither asked for nor wanted, but I was told I could only do so if I also repudiated my UK citizenship, which of course I had no wish to do.

But frankly this hybrid citizenship idea (I very nearly wrote “bastard citizenship”) is a non-starter.  Whose jurisdiction would they be under?  The UK Supreme Court, or the ECJ?  How could UK citizens possibly vote in European elections, when there would be no euro-elections, and no candidates, in the UK?

And what benefits would they expect?  The most likely answer is “free move­ment”.  But we will undoubtedly have a visa waiver programme with the EU.  I went to France long before we joined the Common Market (1952, since you ask) without any problem.  And I confidently expect to visit Vienna and Barcelona after Brexit.

In one respect at least the EU can be compared to ISIL.  Both are posturing as if they were states.  ISIL actually calls itself a state.  The EU has given itself the trappings of a state: anthem, passport, citizenship, currency, flag and (very soon) an army.  It is my view that any Brits who aspire to become “citizens” of these foreign pseudo-states should be required to relinquish their UK citizenship.

The Lords in confusion

There have been several bizarre Brexit proposals going around prior to last night’s votes.  One was that parliament should have a vote on the final deal agreed with the EU.  OK.  Let’s think that through.  If they voted in favour, well and good.  But what is the consequence of a NO vote?  Article 50 would have been invoked nearly two years before.  The calendar rolls on relentlessly.  Article 50 plus two years will arrive in March 2019, and if our parliament voted against the deal, we should leave the EU with no deal at all.

For me, that’s a better outcome than staying in the EU.  But it’s likely to be a less good outcome than an agreed deal.  Any MP imagining that a NO vote means reversion to the status quo ante had better think again.

The Lords had an even more bizarre idea.  They’d have like to be able to send the government back to Brussels and (like Oliver Twist) ask for more.

What would that mean?  First, it would probably push negotiations over the two year limit (in theory that can be extended, but only in the unlikely case of unanimity amongst the 28).  Second, it would almost certainly result in a firm “NO” from Brussels.  We’ve given you our best shot, they’d say.  It’s that or nothing.  And again we’d be out without a deal.

But third (why can’t those guys in the Lords see this?) it creates a huge incentive for Brussels to offer another minimal, nugatory, Cameron-type non-deal.  That would ensure that the Lords voted for a renegotiation, which would leave the British government snookered.

The people voted for Brexit.  Let’s just get on with it, and stop posturing.

A second Scottish referendum?

Nicola Sturgeon has announced her objective for a second Scottish referendum.  .  Jeremy Corbyn has said that’s just fine – though his Labour Party, and especially the Scottish Labour Party, disagrees.

In principle, of course the Scottish people must in the end be free to make their own decision.  But it was the SNP themselves who said that the first Scottish referendum was a “once in a generation” event.  I don’t know about Nicola, but where I come from, a generation is twenty (or maybe twenty-five) years.

Sturgeon’s excuse is that Brexit changes everything.  But surely she knows that many things change over “a generation” (and anyway she knew the Brexit vote was coming).  Merely to say “OK, we promised a generation, but a few months later something unexpected happened” is wonderfully disingenuous.  Of course it did.  As Harold McMillan said “Events, Dear Boy, events”.  A commitment to a generation means nothing if any unexpected event can invalidate it.

Nicola chose a bad time to make her announcement – just as the oil price came down to $50 a barrel, wholly undermining her economic case.  Anyway opinion polls are suggesting that she could lose a second referendum – and that there’s an even greater majority of Scots opposed to having a second referendum at all.

Negative stereotypes

I thoroughly enjoyed the South West UKIP Conference in Weymouth earlier in the month.  All credit to Julia Reid MEP and her colleagues for their Stirling work.  I opened my energy speech with a screening of the 60 second speech I’d made a few days earlier in the Brussels plenary.

As I arrived there was a middle-aged chap with a small dog standing outside the venue, haranguing party members as they entered.  As I walked in, he started to walk away, shouting “Why does UKIP hate ethnic minorities, and why do you want to privatise the NHS?”.  I shouted back “You want a reply, or just a good rant?”.

But I was so annoyed, I did something I’ve never done before.  Jumping in the car, I chased after him and overtook him (and his dog).  This time he listened.  I said “You may like to know that I’m here at this conference with my girlfriend” (don’t panic — I was divorced a couple of years ago) “who is herself from an ethnic minority”.  He started rowing back “Oh, well that’s a good thing”.  “And no one in UKIP wants to privatise the NHS”.  He replied “But that’s what the papers say”.

It’s sad that some people look no further than the Labour propaganda.  We must redouble our efforts to get our message across.

LGBT represented in Weymouth: We had a speech from the leader of the LGBT group in the party, Flo Lewis.  One point she made was especially telling: “We say that in the UKIP LGBT group we get more prejudice from the LGBT community because we’re UKIP than we ever get from UKIP because we’re gay”.  Nice one, Flo.

Smart meters are not so smart, are they?

I have a prejudice against smart meters, and not only because I can’t see the huge cost — estimated at £12 billion nationally — ever being recovered through energy savings, but also because the long-term plan is “demand management”.  When we all have smart appliances, the power companies want to be able to reach into our homes and turn them off.  Or charge more at peak times.

There’s been a lot of opposition to the concept.  But now we read that some smart meters have (wrongly) racked up a £30,000 charge in a day, and also that on test some meters were regularly recording six times the true level of consumption.

So when they offer you a free smart meter, remember it’s not free at all.  The costs come back on your electricity bill.  You don’t have to accept it.   Just say NO.

Stoke by-election

Of course we were all disappointed by the result at Stoke.  It had seemed a promising seat because of the high Leave vote in the referendum.  Two points worth remembering though: first, the Tories hung on to their vote.  It seems that so far the public are prepared to give Theresa May the benefit of the doubt on Brexit.  And second, we can think of both UKIP and Tory votes in this particular by-election as “pro-Brexit” votes, and on this basis, Brexit again did very well in Stoke.

Hague: A snap general election?

William (Lord) Hague has called for a snap general election (though Downing Street has rejected the idea). Hague believes that a spring election would give Theresa May a bigger majority, and that that would help her through the vagaries of Brexit.

Maybe so.  But it could also produce some bizarre results.  In particular, it’s clear that it would become a “Brexit” election.  And the only firmly committed “Remain” party would be the Lib-Dems.  If they attracted the 48% “Remain” vote … no, it doesn’t bear thinking about!

“Green energy is eating its own tail”

I mentioned earlier the video of my energy speech in the Brussels plenary on March 1st.  By a lucky accident of timing, the Economist magazine had just published a striking front-page story “Clean Energy’s Dirty Secret”.   Basically the low marginal cost of intermittent green energy (note: renewables are still expensive in terms of lifetime costs and impact on the grid) is driving down wholesale prices to the point where conventional production is uneconomic, and therefore the market cannot justify the new energy infrastructure investment which we so desperately need.

The prize quote was that line above: “Green energy is eating its own tail”.  It seems that green energy economics are incompatible with free markets.

Trump cuts the EPA down to size

Former President Obama, unable to get his extreme green measures through Congress (where politicians are actually concerned about jobs and growth) decided to use Executive Orders through government agencies like the EPA (Environment Protection Agency), in a way that some felt was unconstitutional.

But the Achilles Heel of this method is that it lasts only as long as the President lasts.  A new in-coming President can reverse those orders at the stroke of a pen — and The Donald looks set to do so.  He has already appointed my old friend Myron Ebell to manage the EPA transition, and named Scott Pruitt, a confirmed climate sceptic, as head of the EPA.

He has proposed a 25% cut in the EPA budget, ruling out egregious green measures.  There have now been calls for a lower “social cost of carbon” price.

The “social cost” or “externalities” of CO2 emissions are simply an estimate of the cost of damage which increased CO2 is supposed to be doing to the planet.  This is real finger-in-the-air stuff.  The IPCC doesn’t even know the climate sensitivity of CO2 (it estimates it “between 1.5oC and 4.5oC”, which is a huge range).  And it takes no account of the benefits of higher CO2 levels (plant growth, crop yields, bio-mass formation, greening the planet).

It is, simply, a stick used by the Greens to beat their opponents, and they have every incentive to put a high figure on it.  It is also used to support the prepost­erous claim that fossil fuels get more subsidy than renewables (but renewable subsidies are real money from real tax-payers and energy users, whereas the fossil fuel “subsidies” are virtual, and based on wild estimates of “social costs”).

Slowly a little common sense in coming back into the debate.  That’s good.  But it further increases the EU’s competitive disadvantage as a result of its perverse energy policies.

Animal welfare

I (and my colleagues) have received hundreds — yes hundreds — of e-mails calling on us to support a new EU law on the welfare of farmed rabbits.  I yield to no one in my concern for animal welfare, but I do have to wonder whether the conditions of farmed rabbits are high enough on the priority list to justify a great deal of time.

I am reminded of the butchers’ Watership Down placard: “You’ve read the book.  You’ve seen the movie.  Now eat the pie”.  Certainly rabbit stew is a popular choice at the London Bistro just outside the parliament in Place Luxembourg.

Maybe those who organise these mass e-mailings on their particular concerns should reflect that beyond a certain point it looks less like a petition, and more like deliberate sabotage of the recipients’ computers.  They send a pre-scripted letter, and must expect to get a pre-scripted answer in return.

There was recently a great fuss on social media — and harsh words from the RSPCA — over a mouse that was stamped on in a BBC studio.  How long before we have a ban on mouse-traps?  Or a new EU law against swatting flies?  Moth-safety-barriers for candles?

So, rabbits.  Will I vote for a new EU law on the conditions of rabbits?  No, because UKIP MEPs do not vote for new EU laws (although on an emotive issue like this we may well abstain).  After Brexit, I shall be perfectly happy if Westminster in its wisdom chooses to pass such a law.

Weapons directive

This March Strasbourg session we vote on the Ford report “on the acquisition and possession of weapons” — basically an anti-gun law.  Like the UK’s ill-fated Dangerous Dogs Act, this is a rushed and ill-conceived response to a genuine public concern.

But the truth is that (as the bumper sticker so aptly puts it), “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”.  ISIL terrorists are hardly likely to go down to their local gun shop and ask for a Kalashnikov.  They will simply get their weapons on the black market.

The real victims of this plan will be decent honest country folk who use their guns for sport, or for controlling vermin.  And of course the shooters who represent our country in international competitions.  I have had many representations from sporting folk and organisations (though perhaps not quite as many as I have had for rabbits).  I know that FACE, the European hunting organisation, has made representations to our Agriculture Spokesman Stuart Agnew MEP.

The proper way to deal with terrorist crime is not through draconian gun laws, but by intelligence-led policing.  And by controlling our borders and restricting immigration from high-risk countries.

One more T-shirt slogan, seen on an NRA shirt: “The Second Amendment: America’s first home security policy”.

Conclusion

That’s it from Strasbourg for this March session.  Please remember to visit my web-site, & my blog. And follow me on Twitter: @RogerHelmerMEP

Also have a look at the UKIP MEP web-site www.ukipmeps.org.