Roger Helmer: Has the Coalition (and the Conservative Party) lost the plot on the EU?
By Roger Helmer MEP
The other day I spoke to a packed Bruges Group fringe meeting in Birmingham, and I posed this question:
Has the Coalition (and the Conservative Party) lost the plot on the EU?
I’m afraid the answer is YES.
As a Conservative, I have for years received e-mails from constituents asking how I, as a eurosceptic, can remain in a party so obviously committed to the European project, and I have replied that the Party needs a bit of Eurosceptic ballast, that I’m trying to keep it honest, that if all the sceptics leave then the pro-EU trend will get worse. And I’ve cherished the hope that Conservatives in government would prove the doubters wrong.
So where are we after five months of Conservative-led Coalition government? Last week Vince Cable told a Brussels audience that the EU institutions had been “pleasantly surprised” by the Coalition’s positive engagement with, and commitment to, the EU project. And for once Vince wasn’t wrong. The truth is that we’ve been handing powers to Brussels under the Coalition arguably faster than Labour did before us. No wonder that the sound and excellent Shadow Europe Minister Mark François was replaced by the plausible and managerial David Lidington.
A couple of months back, we Conservative MEPs in Strasbourg were whipped to vote in favour of the new EU diplomatic service, the EEAS, on “Instructions from London”, despite having been elected on a 2009 Manifesto that explicitly committed us to opposing it. We had opposed the Lisbon Treaty that provides a legal basis for the EEAS, we had opposed the EEAS itself, and we were right to do so. The structures of a single country called the EU are being put in place around us, and we are now whipped to vote in favour on the specious basis that we’ll have to work with it, so we’d better pretend to like it. An EU seat at the UN will be the next thing.
Editor: Roger defied the whip and refused to vote yes.
Brussels can demand your DNA and bank details
Theresa May has voluntarily signed up to the new EU Investigation Order, so that a Bulgarian prosecutor can demand your bank details or your DNA, and the British police are obliged to obtain these data and pass them to Bulgaria. No checks, no balances, no appeal, no safeguards for the citizens (just as with the scandalous EU Arrest Warrant). The police are already protesting about the additional work-load at a time of major cut-backs. And what happened to data protection? This is a gross infringement of individual liberty – and the Coalition bought it without a fight.
Then there’s the new EU regulatory structure for financial services. The City of London has the lion’s share of the EU’s financial services business, yet we’ve agreed for it to be regulated from Brussels and Frankfurt. Frankfurt tail wags City dog. Financial services companies and high-net-worth individuals are already buying tickets to Switzerland in consequence. I pay tribute to my colleague Vicky Ford MEP, who has fought tooth-and-nail, and with some success, to modify the proposals and limit the damage. But we have conceded the principle, and that’s a gross dereliction of the government’s duty.
What Referendum Lock?
So what about the Referendum Lock? It is a meaningless piece of spin. They talk about referenda on new Treaties, but because of the passerelle clauses in the Lisbon Treaty, Brussels doesn’t need new treaties. It can pursue “Ever Closer Union” within the existing Treaty framework. Our Referendum Lock plans refer to the ratchet clauses, but leave so many grey areas that, given the Coalition’s current attitude to Brussels, we can have little confidence in them. Not so much a Referendum Lock – more a stable door slammed when the horse is long gone.
Why are they doing this?
Weren’t Cameron and Hague of a broadly sceptic disposition? Well of course their first priority is, quite rightly, the deficit, and so their second priority is to keep the Coalition on an even keel to deal with the deficit. For these reasons they don’t want to be distracted by a huge row with Brussels, nor do they want a huge row with the Lib-Dems.
But the underlying problem is that they regard Europe as a separate issue in a separate box, and moreover an issue way down the voters’ priority list. It’s something that happens “over there”. They’ve failed to grasp the fundamental nature of the EU threat to our independence, our democracy and our liberty.
Future generations will marvel that we gave up so much, with so little in exchange, and without even a token resistance. Sometimes, I despair for my country.
Thank you, Roger, for that bracingly honest assessment.
It's clear from listening to the BBC that the powers-that-be are resolved to keep Europe far from public awareness even though the EU is sitting in our purses and pockets, emptying out our wallets. Every day the BBC wails about the Coalition government's draconian cuts in services without ever mentioning the huge sums going to the EU. Services would not have to be cut if we simply left the bloated EU which is taking billions of pounds in British earnings. But never, never, never once does the BBC or the Coalition government mention this. They have a great deal to answer for.