STRAIGHT TALKING October 2016
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Brexit gets under way
There may be bumps in the road, but credit is due to Theresa May for her firm statement on invoking Article 50 by March next year, and on refusing to compromise on immigration, regardless of the single market question. But we should recall that we should never have reached this position, and Theresa May (who voted Remain) would never have made that speech, but for all the work that UKIP has done over the years. And it would have been nice to hear a similarly forthright commitment from her on our fisheries.
As we approach the substantive negotiations on Brexit, there are three things I’d like our politicians and our media to remember:
1 Single Market: They all talk about access to the Single Market, and forget that every country in the world has access to the Single Market, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
2 Free trade not linked to free movement: We are constantly told (as if it were a truism) that free trade requires free movement. It does not. The EU has free trade agreements with dozens of countries, and is negotiating more. Apart from the special cases of Switzerland and Norway (who effectively have quasi-membership of the EU), none of those agreements includes free movement. And Brussels would have refused free movement if the other parties had asked for it.
3 Our negotiating position: We have a hugely strong negotiating position, as we are the rump-EU’s largest external customer bar none. We are not going cap-in-hand to Brussels asking for favours. But we are prepared to offer Brussels free and fair access to our vital market provided we can do so on reciprocal terms.
We are not begging for a deal. We are offering Brussels the opportunity to negotiate terms to protect the EU’s own interests.
I was sorry and shocked to get the news last night of Diane James’ decision to stand down as Leader of the Party. It was perhaps only after she was elected that she fully realised the scale of the task she’d offered to take on. She deserves credit at least for biting the bullet promptly, and for not letting a difficult situation drag on.
The NEC will meet shortly in emergency session to finalise a process for selecting a new Leader.
Raj Chandran RIP
Like all who knew him, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden death of Dr. Raj Chandran — only the day after I had greeted him at our Party Conference in Bournemouth. Raj was a loyal member of UKIP who held a position on our National Executive Committee at the time of his passing.
His experience as a former Mayor of Gedling, and as a candidate both in Parliamentary and Police and Crime Commissioner elections, was invaluable, and he was always happy to pass that experience on. Raj was also a former Commissioner for Racial Equality and believed strongly in our party reaching out widely to different communities.
During his time on the NEC, Dr Chandran served our members with honour and integrity and he often spoke of his pride at helping our party by serving on its governing body. Our thoughts go out to his wife and family as we thank them for sharing him with us over recent years.
ASA condemns FoE leaflet
I have inveighed time and again against the torrent of black propaganda spewed out by “green” organisations (often funded by the tax-payer) against shale gas. I have asked the European Commission why while it supports shale gas, it still funds the green groups (I am still awaiting an answer). But I was delighted to see that a Friends of the Earth (FoE) leaflet has been referred to the Advertising Standards Authority, who have ruled that FoE were unable to substantiate the alarming claims they made. Putting it in less formal language, the FoE leaflet was a load of misleading tosh.
We need a little balance here. No energy technology is 100% safe, but shale gas is cleaner and safer than most alternatives. It offers huge benefits in terms of jobs, prosperity, energy security, balance-of-payments, Treasury revenues — and (if you care about such things) far lower CO2 emissions than coal. It would be wholly irresponsible to ignore the energy under our feet.
Merrifield strikes again!
I recounted my exchanges last month with Professor Michael Merrifield. But the man doesn’t stop. He loves to pose tricky questions. A couple of days ago he tried “What’s your proposal for the Irish border?”. Soon afterwards I got “Any thoughts yet?” (I’ve corrected his punctuation). And within hours “Still no thoughts?”. And then last night, around midnight, “Too tricky?”.
Well done Mike. The killer question. The Gordian knot. You got me with that one. Buy let’s see what we can make of it.
The first point is rather simple. As an MEP for the East Midlands, I’m not sure it’s part of my remit to deal with the detail of local issues in Ulster. And more generally, while the outline of UKIP’s vision of Brexit is well known, there are a range of issues that will only be clarified by negotiation after Article 50 has been invoked, and I make no apology for the lack of pre-cooked responses today.
The issue is that after Brexit, and if we leave the current open border between Ulster and the Republic, any EU citizen will be free to come to Dublin and cross into Ulster without let or hindrance — which will undermine our attempts to manage our borders. On the other hand, we should certainly prefer not to have a hard border around Ulster.
Before the Republic joined the EU, we had had an open border with Ulster for years — but of course that assumed that the Republic was controlling its own borders, which it can no longer do in the EU. But this, Professor Mike, is an issue for the Foreign Secretary of a liberated UK to negotiate with the Republic and/or Brussels. I’m sure his civil servants are working on a list of options as we speak. This is hardly rocket science — the EU has many land borders with third countries. We should be glad that our own will be a short one.
But Merrifield’s question suggests an intriguing speculation. The recent decision of the European Court in respect of Apple’s taxes in Ireland has brought the problems of EU membership into sharp focus in Dublin. A competitive corporate tax rate has been fundamental to Ireland’s economic success. It is now clearly facing a major threat from Brussels.
With the initial positive post-Brexit news, it seems likely that many in Ireland will start asking whether the EU is the ideal place for the Republic. Given that the USA and the UK are its largest trading partners, perhaps it would be better off in the Anglosphere (possibly free-riding on the UK’s future trade deals) than as an offshore province of Brussels. Good idea, Professor Merrifield. Thanks for suggesting it.
Again and again we are told that if we want free movement of goods, services and capital in the EU, we must also accept free movement — as though it were axiomatic or self-evident that all four should go together, and you couldn’t have one without the other three. In fact it’s nonsense.
Last night I attended an event at the Vietnamese Embassy celebrating the 71st anniversary of Vietnamese independence. And awaiting ratification we have an EU/Vietnam free trade agreement. Does it include free movement? Of course not. While there I chatted to the Korean Ambassador. South Korea also has a free trade deal with the EU. And of course that doesn’t include free movement either.
Indeed far from free trade requiring free movement, the opposite is true — free trade obviates the need for free movement. If you were obliged to make all manufactured goods in your own country, you might feel a strong need to import cheap labour, so free movement would be a plus. But if you have free trade, you can site your production unit where labour is plentiful and economic.
If the EU has free trade deals with Korea and Vietnam, (without free movement) can anyone doubt that it will want a trade deal with its largest external customer, bar none — the UK?
Climate: “Rejecting the science”
The Guardian writes a patronising piece implying that what it calls “climate deniers” have a psychological problem — or in plain English, are a bit nuts. I was going to write a newsletter piece, but it got to be a bit too long, so it’s on the blog.
The fact is that those of us the Guardian calls “deniers” are not deniers at all. We accept that the climate changes. We accept that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. But we don’t insist dogmatically that the world’s complex and chaotic climate system can be described or predicted by a single variable. Nor do we see the slight warming over the last century as anything other than a part of the natural long-term cyclical variation which has been in place since before the dawn of civilisation.
“Climate Hustle” in Brussels
Here’s one for Professor Merrifield. The US think-tank and advocacy group Climate Depot has produced a movie, “Climate Hustle”, setting out the rational scientific case against Warmism. I’ve arranged a screening in the European parliament, Room 1E2, at three on Wednesday October 19th. It’s open to visitors. Please feel free to come, but if coming, please pre-register with Rachael Moore on Rachael.Moore@europarl.europa.eu. And please arrive at least an hour early to get through the parliament’s exhaustive administrative and security procedures.
Sarkozy on climate change
Former French President (and now Presidential hopeful) Nicholas Sarkozy has had the temerity to suggest that mankind “is not the sole cause of climate change”. Never mind that this is self-evidently true. Never mind that the climate changed for a billion years (and probably for four billion years) before the first four-by-four rolled off the production line. Never mind that even the IPCC lists several natural causes of climate change. The virulence of the response to his remarks was extraordinary, as the Spectator pointed out. .
Sarkozy’s remarks tell us nothing new about climate change. Surely no serious scientist out there believes that mankind is theonly cause of climate change? But it tells us a lot more about the mind-set of the Warmists, who bridle at the least hint of doubt. I and many others have pointed out that climate orthodoxy is the new religion. Sarkozy has blasphemed, and must be punished accordingly.
Do MEPs actually do any work?
One of the recurring themes of UKIP opponents and internet trolls is that UKIP MEPs don’t do any work. They criticised Nigel Farage’s voting record – but failed to mention that it was vastly better than that of other (then) Party leaders like David Cameron or Nick Clegg.
The police love speeding fines because speed is easy and numerical to measure, and they ignore the fact that most accidents are caused by bad driving – which is less easy to assess. Similarly internet trolls take a single, one-dimensional measure – usually the published voting participation rate – and use it as a basis for criticism.
I thought I’d look at a different measure. Many constituents who write to me say we should do more to communicate with the public. How do we stack up on that issue? I asked my press officer Nick Tite how many blog posts I’d done over the years, and was surprised by the answer. Starting in 2007, I’ve done 2,086 blog posts – most of them significant chunks of tightly argued and referenced material.
That’s roughly one every one-and-a-half days. Including weekends.
Currently on my web-site are 49 monthly newsletters – four years’ worth – dating back to 2012. But others are lost from a previous web-site, and I was doing hard-copy newsletters right from the start of my parliamentary career in 1999, so I estimate I’ve done something like a couple of hundred.
Plus, of course, innumerable press releases, local and national radio and TV appearances, and speeches. I recently had a Twitter troll say “Oh Yeah? Speeches? Where have you made speeches then?”. To which I replied: “Brussels. Strasbourg. Up and down the East Midlands. Up and down the UK. Across Europe. Plus the USA, Israel and Asia”.
I haven’t checked the detail, but I believe that most of my UKIP colleagues maintain a comparable work schedule. So yes. MEPs are indeed doing some work.
Also have a look at the UKIP MEP web-site www.ukipmeps.org