STRAIGHT TALKING December 2007
Roger Helmer's electronic newsletter from Brussels
...Germany brings back EU flag and anthem
Germany, along with 15 other member-states, has added a last-minute declaration to the Lisbon Treaty, recognising the EU flag and anthem. So one of the trivial changes between the Constitution and the Treaty, on which Gordon Brown relied for his U-turn on a referendum, is already falling apart.
Admittedly the German declaration will have no legal force or practical effect. But then the decision to drop the flag and anthem from the treaty had no practical effect either.
Mass Lobby for a Referendum
The "I Want a Referendum" Campaign (backed by Open Europe) is planning a mass lobby of parliament early in the New Year.
If you are able to come down to Westminster on a week day, in either January or February 2008, to tell your MP in person why they should vote for a referendum, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to register for the event. The precise date will be announced nearer the time.
Referendum Protest greets EU Charter
Wednesday Dec 12th saw the formal signing in Strasbourg of the EU's "Charter of Fundamental Rights" by the heads of the European parliament, the European Council and the Commission. But the formal occasion was overshadowed by a noisy demonstration by MEPs demanding a referendum for their constituents on the Renamed Constitution, due to be signed by Heads of Government in Lisbon on Thursday.
Around fifty MEPs, including myself, had come to the Chamber wearing T-shirts bearing the word "REFERENDUM!". We were a cross-party group from many countries.
As the three heads of institutions sat down on ceremonial chairs in the centre of the Hemicycle for the signing, we rose to our feet and raised placards with the Referendum slogan. And in four separate locations around the Chamber, we also raised ten-foot banners with the same word, in full view of the photographers and TV cameras assembled for the ceremony. At the same time we started chanting the one word "Referendum!".
The parliament's ushers made sterling but courteous and well-mannered efforts to remove the banners and placards, without great success, and after a while the protest subsided and order was restored. But as the main body of MEPs rose to applaud the signing, the protest and the chanting resumed, redoubling in volume as the EU's National Anthem was played.
After the protest, I was challenged to say why I had "sought to deny the speakers the right to be heard". I replied that the 75% of the British people who want a referendum also had a right to be heard, and I had been articulating their demand. I added that it was ironic for EU leaders to boast that the "Charter of Fundamental Rights" was guaranteeing freedom and democracy for European citizens, while member state governments elected on a promise of a referendum had broken their word. "What sort of human rights do we have if we're not even allowed to decide who governs us?" I asked. The determination of the EU to press ahead with the Constitution in the teeth of public opinion shows a huge contempt for democracy and for the people.
In a speech immediately after the protest, a leading Liberal MEP said it had been like "The storming of the Reichstag". In response, I quipped that the Brussels-based Fourth Reich was causing us nearly as much trouble as the Third one.
The MEPs demanding a referendum are in a minority in the parliament, but we represent a majority in many European member-states including the UK. As a British Conservative, I am delighted that our Party policy is to demand a referendum, and I am proud to have raised the demands of East Midlands voters for a say on the treaty on this high-profile occasion.
Finally some "cool thinking" on climate change. Read more here and here.
The Bali Conference on Global Warming
Bali Discovery Tours reports that because of the expected influx of private jets in Bali for the UN Conference on Climate Change, the airport will not have enough parking space for all of them. A great way to save the planet.
As a Telegraph editorial put it (Dec 3rd): "The Bali meeting is not really about doing anything. It is about feeling smug; and getting paid for it".
...Energy: Good News and Bad News
Good news: Labour set to go ahead with new nuclear build programme. David Cameron has said that when Labour get something right, we should have the courage to say so. The government is right to press ahead with a new investment programme for nuclear capacity, and I salute them for it. It will save massive CO2 emissions (if you think that's important), and it's vital for our economy and for energy security.
Bad news: New off-shore wind farms. These new wind-farms will deliver an unreliable trickle of very expensive energy. They will require conventional back-up on stand-by for when the wind drops, so the CO2 savings will be small. But the higher costs to consumers and industry will be very damaging. The Danes are already cutting back on development of wind-power because the variations in wind levels unbalance their electricity grid.
Wind turbines are garden ornaments, not power stations. They don't save the planet. They just ease the consciences of the middle classes.
...Well done Collingtree; well done Rod Sellers
On 15th November, a poll of electors in the little Northamptonshire Village of Collingtree, voted by a majority of 97% (152 - 5) for a National Referendum on the EU Constitutional Treaty before it is ratified by Parliament. Despite a wet and cold November night, 17% of village electors made the effort to vote in person, as postal or proxy votes were not allowed.
The Parish Poll had been called under the provisions of the 1972 Local Government Act which states that a poll must be conducted by the held when enough local electors in the Parish call for one.
Local electors voted on the question “Do you want a national referendum on the EU Constitutional Treaty? Yes or No?”
The Co-ordinator of the Referendum Campaign, Rod Sellers, said “We are delighted that once again when people have a chance to have their say – they say ‘We want a Referendum’. We know that national opinion Polls show that 75% of us want Gordon Brown to have the courage keep his manifesto promise”.
Non-British Citizens to Vote in British elections?
I would like to thank Roy Hewson for bringing an alarming new blog to my attention. It seems that increasing numbers of foreigners are entitled to vote in British elections, and are being encouraged to do so. See the blog for yourself here.