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 email@example.com
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I’m delighted to see headlines recently with phrases like “Brexit Bounce” (love the alliteration) and “Brexit Surge”.
During the referendum campaign I frequently predicted that there would be economic turbulence around the vote, and in the aftermath of the vote if Brexit won, and I have to be honest and say that I anticipated (if we won) perhaps months of gloomy headlines. I expected to spend a long time defending the Brexit position and arguing that Brexit is a long-term project, that the benefits would come eventually, and that we had to give them time to emerge.
So I am frankly astonished — and delighted — to see how positive the reaction has been. Yes, the Pound is down — but that looks like a tonic for exporters, and many economists had argued that it needed to come down. (And as I write, the Pound has strengthened sharply against the dollar). But contrary to expectation, the Footsie is up. Retail sales are up. Employment is up. Manufacturing and services are up. And a recent large scale opinion poll of 8000 people shows 59% think that “Britain is heading in the right direction”.
Economists who predicted a post-Brexit recession are having to eat their words. Today I read that Credit Suisse, which had predicted a contraction in 2017, has revised its prediction to +0.5%. Still far too low, in my view, but a move in the right direction. Morgan Stanley has also cancelled its recession forecast.
Of course we have a long way to go, and the uncertainty caused by the delay in invoking Article 50 may yet be damaging. But the overall picture is more positive than I could ever have imagined, and the dire predictions of the Remain Campaign look increasingly absurd.
A remaining problem is the media mind-set, and especially that of the BBC. They are so convinced that Brexit is bad for the economy that they prefix every good news report with “Despite Brexit”, reinforcing negative expectations. Think again, guys. The fresh air of freedom is invigorating. Time to say “Because of Brexit…”.
On the plus side, I just heard the news on Classic FM announcing “House prices expected to rise for five years following (not “despite”) the Brexit vote”.
Brexit means Brexit?
Theresa May famously insisted that “Brexit means Brexit”. Good so far, but what does Brexit mean? With May saying that the British people want “some control” on immigration, and being entirely equivocal on the Single Market, we are right to be concerned.
Let’s spell it out for her: Brexit means total independence. It means we have no obligation to offer preferential terms on immigration to EU citizens. Nor to observe EU law. Nor to pay a penny into the EU budget. And it means total control of fisheries in the waters to which international law entitles us.
Of course we need to negotiate trade terms, as we would with any other country, but given our large trade deficit with the continent, we are in a strong position to do so. In essence, we say “If you want free access to the UK market for your manufactures, we want full access to the EU market for our services”.
UKIP PARTY CONFERENCE Sept 16/17, 2016
Celebrate the Brexit victory by being in Bournemouth for Nigel Farage’s last major speech as leader of UKIP! Tickets available here. I expect to be speaking late afternoon on Friday 16th.
The Daily Debrief
During the Referendum Campaign I produced my “Daily Debrief”, a quick and early summary of the day’s news agenda as it related to Brexit. Since I was covering so much on a day-to-day basis, it seemed unnecessary to maintain a detailed monthly newsletter.
The Debrief was well received, and I was asked to keep it going in the weeks after the referendum. That’s now over, so I propose to resume the monthly newsletter where I left off.
Parliamentary screening of “Climate Hustle”
The US think tank and advocacy group Climate Depot has created a new film challenging the orthodox position on global warming, and I have arranged for a screening in the Brussels parliament at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday October 19th. We shall be delighted to welcome the founder of Climate Depot Marc Morano, one of the most prominent figures in the climate debate in the USA. He will introduce the movie and take questions after the screening.
The event will be open to visitors, but please pre-register at firstname.lastname@example.org , and please allow at least an hour to get through security on the day.
The Sun and Professor Merrifield
Some time ago, I was struck by press reports commenting that the temperature dropped sharply during an eclipse of the Sun, and I Tweeted a comment about it. I was not trying to prove a point, merely to draw attention to a topical event that illustrated and demonstrated the huge impact of solar radiation on terrestrial temperature.
Bizarrely, my old sparring partner Professor Michael Merrifield of Nottingham University has repeatedly quoted the comment on social media, and sought to hold it up to ridicule — though I fail to understand quite what he finds ridiculous in a statement of the obvious.
It is surely clear even to a Professor of Astronomy that the Sun is overwhelmingly the primary factor in determining the Earth’s temperature, and maintaining a broadly temperate environment conducive to life.
A certain Brett Williamson Tweeting as @ExecCanuck, possibly an associate of Merrifield, adds “actually it just illustrates that it’s colder when it gets dark, which the rest of us already understood”. Precisely, Brett. You make my point for me. That’s because the Sun is the main driver of temperature.
If the Sun were suddenly extinguished, the earth would cool rapidly, and freeze over, and all life on the planet would cease. Even a temporary eclipse can alter temperature one or two degrees in minutes. By contrast, Warmists can only claim that increases in atmospheric CO2 have raised mean global temperatures by 0.7o C in a century (though many would argue that much of that increase is down to well-established long-term natural climate cycles, and would have occurred anyway).
The effect of CO2 is of course hugely open to question — the IPCC itself cannot settle on an agreed figure for the climate sensitivity of atmospheric CO2.
So what is Michael getting at? Perhaps he accepts that the Sun has a major impact, but believes that the Sun is fairly constant, and cannot therefore drive changes in global climate. If so, he is clearly wrong. There is a clear correlation between solar activity — in particular the incidence of sun-spots — and global temperatures. It is difficult to see any other explanation for the marked correlation between the Dalton and Maunder minima, and periods of very low sunspot activity, which are well-documented.
We also have a very credible explanation of the link (and I am sure that the good Professor is aware of it). Sunspots increase the Sun’s magnetic field. This reduces the flux of cosmic rays in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Cosmic rays facilitate cloud formation. Fewer cosmic rays, fewer clouds, lower albedo, more sunlight reaches the surface, higher temperatures.
The Sun is the primary driver of terrestrial climate in the short, the medium and the long term. Atmospheric CO2levels may have some effect, but the significance of any such effect remains highly debatable. So my original comment stands: the sharp fall in temperature during a solar eclipse is a topical reminder of the importance of the Sun in the climate debate, and I make no apology for Tweeting it. Why a Nottingham Professor chooses to hold up to ridicule a simple statement of the obvious is a mystery to me.
And another Twitter tiff
In addition to Professor Merrifield’s thoughts on the Sun and Global warming, he and his co-Tweeters have been having a go about Europe. The good Professor appears to be an expert in geography and geo-politics, in addition to his expertise in astronomy, climatology and atmospheric physics.
It all started with the EU flag, and the argument went that Britain still remains geographically part of Europe (they say), even after Brexit, so since “The Crown of Thorns” is the flag of Europe, it remains our flag (or one of our flags).
But what exactly is “europe”? The word by itself signifies nothing more than the western rump of the Eurasian land-mass, and the dividing line between Europe and Asia is much debated. In fact, the term “europe” is ill-defined (and as a former mathematician, I prefer dealing with well-defined entities).
Take Turkey. I believe that around 3% of the Turkish land-mass (though more of the population) lies west of the Bosphorus, widely considered the boundary between Europe and Asia. Does that make Turkey a European country? Or not? Or take Russia. I was in St. Petersburg recently, and I should be happy to regard it as a European city. But Vladivostok? Is all Russia European? Or part of it (to the Urals, maybe)? Or none of it? And Ukraine? Georgia? And what about the UK? Labour MEPs insist that the UK is absolutely and unequivocally part of geographical Europe, while I regard Europe as the Continent (however defined), and the UK as an offshore Island (or islands). For me, Europe starts at Calais.
If “europe” is not well defined, it is not an entity which can have a flag, or a government, or an administration, so even if you choose to see the UK as part of Europe, you cannot on that basis insist that the EU flag is ours.
Then the flag itself becomes an issue. My Twitter interlocutors insist correctly that the circle of twelve stars derives from Catholic Marian iconography (that should go down a storm in Belfast), and has nothing to do with the Crucifixion or the Crown of Thorns.
Of course they are right. But different people see symbols differently. They create their own metaphors, and draw their own parallels. To a Hindu, for example, the Swastika is a symbol of good luck. To Europeans, the Swastika (albeit in mirror-image) has very different connotations. So sorry, guys, but for me the EU flag is the Crown of Thorns.
Here in the UK, the flag is indissolubly identified with the EU, and carries all the negative baggage that led to the Brexit vote. Very few people associate it with the Council of Europe, which first adopted it. And of course today, the UK is still part of the EU, so we must admit, however grudgingly, that its use may be proper. But once Brexit is finalised, it becomes simply a foreign flag like any other foreign flag, and ceases to have relevance for the UK.
It is odd to reflect that both the Marian stars, and the Swastika, in their very different ways, have become symbols of failed attempts to unify Europe (whatever Europe may be).
The Internet trolls
I am always happy to debate political issues with opponents (especially when, as with Brexit, we’re on the winning side), though sometimes it’s difficult to express complex ideas in the 140-character format of Twitter.
I fear, however, that there are far too many Twitter users who seem to think that generalised abuse is a substitute for rational debate. Some of the language that appears on the web is too fruity for repetition in a political newsletter designed for family reading around the fireside. But merely call someone “stupid” hardly counts as an argument at all.
They are, in fact, devaluing language itself. They describe anyone who disagrees with them as Fascist and racist. The new joint leader of the Green Party has claimed that UKIP is fascist. UKIP is nothing like fascist. Indeed as a broadly libertarian party, UKIP is arguably the opposite of fascist. So the terms fascist and racist are themselves becoming little more than generalised terms of abuse, all meaning squeezed out of them.
The other theme that emerges repeatedly is that “UKIP MEPs don’t do any work”. Of course we may not do what the trolls want — but we’re not elected to represent trolls. We’re elected to represent our constituents, who voted for us in massive numbers. And by fighting (and winning) the Brexit referendum, we’ve done exactly what they wanted — and exactly what UKIP says on the tin (as it were).
Generally I think it’s best not to respond to trolls at all. But I must make one point. Before politics, I had what I like to refer to as “a proper job”, running businesses in the UK and around the world, and I thought I worked quite hard. But I have definitely worked longer hours in my MEP rôle than in my previous career. It is by no means uncommon to find me in the office at 7:30 in the morning, and leaving the building at ten at night. And as an MEP I’m on call throughout the weekend as well, with media bids and other issues.
Nonetheless there’s a picture going around on the internet, taken in the Strasbourg hemicycle some years ago by Julie Girling, a Tory MEP, in which I had momentarily dozed off. Hands up. I admit it (it was during a very boring speech). But I think that a quick five minutes zizz in a fourteen hour day is not necessarily something to apologise for.
The Siege of Calais
My old friend Robert Goodwill was a Tory MEP in my first term (1999/2004). Subsequently elected to Westminster from Whitby, he became a Transport Minister, and is today an immigration minister in Theresa May’s government.
Last week Robert announced that Britain would pay £2 million for what the Mail has dubbed “The Great Wall of Calais” — an extra defence for the Ferry terminal, in addition to the fence already in place.
I was immediately struck by the seeming injustice, that law-abiding tourists and truckers were to be forced to cower behind massive defences, and to run the gauntlet of vicious attacks from illegal migrants on the approaches to the terminal, while the bad guys were free to go wherever they wanted, intimidating and assaulting the public. So more as a howl of outrage than a considered policy proposal, I Tweeted: “So we’re building a wall around the Calais terminal to keep migrants out. Why not build it round the Jungle Camp to keep them in?”
I suppose I should have anticipated the incandescent outpouring of synthetic outrage from the monstrous regiment of bleeding-heart lefty trolls on the web. It was a Nazi suggestion, they said. Was I following “That other guy with a moustache”? Did I intend it as “A Final Solution”? Did I not remember the Warsaw Ghetto? Were these people not human too?
The Warsaw Ghetto reference was particularly offensive. Yes, I know about the Warsaw Ghetto. I have visitedYad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Centre in Jerusalem, more than once. So I know that the Jews in the Ghetto were the victims, and the bad guys were outside. If the illegal migrants of Calais were detained in the Jungle Camp, the bad guys would be inside, and their previous victims would be free to go about their lawful business.
It is perfectly proper for a state to detain illegal immigrants pending arrangements for deportation. When those migrants are systematically attacking and assaulting members of the public, when they are attacking British and other truckers with bricks, iron bars, concrete blocks and even chain saws, when they are engineering car crashes on the motorway, when they are behaving like marauding bands of outlaws, it is not only proper but highly desirable in the interests of public safety that they be securely detained.
Does this amount to collective punishment? I would not propose (even casually) that 5000 people should be interned because a handful of them had committed offences. But when they are illegals to start with, and large numbers of them are repeatedly and systematically behaving like brigands and outlaws, there is clear justification for detaining them securely.
Of course we should like to see the French police arresting and charging each individual involved and subjecting them to the due process of law, but this is clearly challenging, and the French police seem unwilling or unable to do so.
Are there children in the camp? Yes. But they should be first and foremost the responsibility of their parents. If internment were implemented, it would be open to the authorities, perhaps with the help of major charities, to make provision for the old, the sick and the children. But the great majority in the Jungle Camp seem to be fit young men.
So we have a choice. Should it be our first priority to protect the law-abiding majority? Or the violent and criminal illegal immigrants? Surely it’s a no-brainer.
I have mentioned above that UKIP is a broadly libertarian party, and no doubt the internet trolls will cite the Calais issue as evidence that we are authoritarian, not libertarian. But I rank the liberty of the law-abiding public ahead of the liberty of criminals. You can’t have it both ways.
Why are you still there?
One other boringly repetitive theme of the trolls is to demand that UKIP MEPs immediately resign, since we’ve fulfilled our rôle by winning the Brexit vote, and have nothing further to do. They create an amusing Catch 22. If we attend sessions of the parliament, we’re only there for the salary and expenses. If we fail to attend, we’re failing to do the job we’re paid for. Make your minds up, guys.
But of course it’s one thing to vote for Brexit, and quite another to achieve it. Britain is unlikely to be out of the EU much before 2019, if then. There are increasing concerns that Theresa May, after her storming start to her premiership, is starting to look dilatory about invoking Article 50. Her speech at the G20, where she asserted that the British people had voted for “some control” over EU immigration (and rejected an Australian-style points system) sounded like back-tracking. Sorry, Theresa, but we didn’t vote for “some control” on immigration. We voted for full independence and the absolute right to control our borders.
Meantime in the European parliament, there is more and more discussion of Brexit in committee meetings. It is vital for UKIP MEPs to be there, both to engage in those debates and also to be able to report back on what is being discussed. Far from packing up and leaving now that we have a Brexit result, our presence here is now perhaps more critical and important than it has been at any point since I was first elected in 1999.
Quote of the Month:
“Only very simple people believe that you can change the weather by throwing virgins into a volcano or buying curly light bulbs”.
From “Sunrise’s Swansong” blog. https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/
I trust you had a very enjoyable summer. I managed to fulfil a long-held ambition and take a cruise in the Baltic, with three days in Saint Petersburg (and I may say how delighted I was, years ago, when I found that Leningrad had reverted to its former name).
St. Petersburg is one of those cities where they have insisted on low-rise building, giving a wonderfully consistent sky-line, punctuated occasionally by the onion domes and cupolas of churches (not all of which were destroyed in the communist years, though some were “re-purposed”). I was privileged to visit the Winter Palace, now the Hermitage, one of the greatest art collections in Europe. In the Hermitage’s theatre, we saw their own ballet company perform Swan Lake. I suspect it was the B Team — not quite Bolshoi or Mariinsky class — but nonetheless a very enjoyable show.
The visit to the State Russian Museum of Art was a delight. Modernism, cubism and abstraction appear to have passed it by, but there were wonderful paintings of landscape and history. I was especially struck by the work of Arkhip Kuindzhi, who developed a technique to enhance the brightness of paintings until they almost appear to be back-lit. We were told that the technique died with him, and no one has been able to reproduce it. He is claimed as a Russian in the Museum, though I believe he was in fact a Ukrainian of Greek extraction.
I also saw the graves of great Russian composers including Rimsky Korsakov and Borodin, and I was delighted to find a headstone for the great 19th Century choreographer Marius Petipa.
A moment of humour
I just came across a letter purporting to be from the Canadian Defence Secretary to a concerned citizen who had expressed worries about the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan. Frankly, I suspect it’s a spoof — but it’s nonetheless hilarious for that. Well worth a read.
Also have a look at the UKIP MEP web-site www.ukipmeps.org