Roger Helmer writes open letter to Damian Reece

Regular readers will know this blog has had some strong disagreements with Roger Helmer in months gone by.  Credit where it’s due, Helmer finally abandoned his indefensible membership of the europhile Conservatives and defected to UKIP – a party that reflects his eurosceptic viewpoint.

As this blog did on Saturday, Helmer has taken issue with the weekend editorial piece by the Telegraph’s Head of Business, Damian Reece, and has responded with an open letter on the Better Off Out site, a campaign group whose objectives this blog wholeheartedly supports.

While the sentiment of Helmer’s response is spot on, parts of the response leave eurosceptics open to accusations of woolly thinking, such as in this following paragraph (emphasis is mine):

Those of us who believe that we should be “Better Off Out” would argue for full independence, plus a free trade agreement. Such an agreement can certainly be achieved, because it is overwhelmingly in the interests of both parties, and of Brussels more than the UK (since we are a net importer from the EU). It is also required in the Treaties for the EU to negotiate such an agreement with a departing member-state. Even in the unthinkable case that we left the EU with no such agreement, the duties we should pay on our exports to the EU would be a mere fraction of our current net EU budget contributions.

This is ludicrously simplistic and fails to recognise major issues Helmer should be well aware of. For example, if we left the EU without agreements covering a wide range of matters the UK could find itself in breach of international conventions such as the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which Richard recently outlined on his blog to illustrate the attention to detail needed when exiting the EU.

Unilateral withdrawal from the EU without an agreement is indeed unthinkable – which is why it is unbelievable that Helmer has needlessly opened up a line of attack against eurosceptics with his detour on to discussion of duties and budget contributions. There are literally thousands of different conventions, agreements, protocols and other arrangements like CCAMLR which could be affected by our withdrawal from the EU and damage the UK economy by making it more difficult for this country to export. Comparing export duties with budget contributions is utterly irrelevant, particularly if this country finds itself unable to export to the EU because of the absence of an agreement.

Sadly this is another frustrating heads-in-hands moment caused by a lack of determined focus and a need to ramble.  The withdrawalist argument and pledge to the nation needs be clear and unambiguous and leave the europhiles with no opportunity to scaremonger that withdrawal will damage the UK’s interests.  The manner of withhdrawal needs to be certain and sure-footed, the arguments for it completely positive, and commitment to securing agreement to safeguard the UK’s economic and commercial interests absolute.

There is more than a hint of the Farage UKIP party line in Helmer’s letter, which is only to be expected given Helmer is a party political animal.  But Helmer should know better.  This is another positive argument for a strong and leaderless, organic, grassroots movement that is free of the baggage of a political party and direction set by an autocratic leader.

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3 Responses to “Roger Helmer writes open letter to Damian Reece”


  1. 1 vince 07/01/2013 at 6:27 pm

    If we must argue this on an economic level only we have to look at the bigger picture.Tim Congdon admits there will likely be losers and winners in the UK,just we can use the money we save compensating those businesses that suffer in the short/medium. Of course we should negotiate to make any disruptions as minimum as possible and I do not see it in the EU’s interest to make that any more difficult than they have to either.

    Besides the EU is currently committing economic/monetary suicide.Why tie our future to that?

    And we still haven’t mentioned the economic huge benefit we would have of no longer having to comply with the ludicrous EU C02 targets.But that is still seems largely taboo.But its a massive plus from where I am sitting.

  2. 2 Roger Helmer MEP 07/01/2013 at 8:29 pm

    Hi autonomous! Sorry I’m going to have to rebut your attack on my paragraph. It was quite clear from the context that I was speaking (as was Damian Reece) about the issues for business and commerce, and I was rightly making the point that even if we paid the duty (though we wouldn’t), it would only be about a third of our net budget contributions. This is a striking fact that I only discovered last year, and which is useful for eurosceptics to know. I wasn’t talking aboutconservation in the Antarctic, and I’m perfectly happy to leave that to the Foreignh Office to sort out.

  3. 3 Autonomous Mind 07/01/2013 at 9:32 pm

    Hi Roger! I hope you’re well. I wouldn’t describe my comment as an attack. It was based on the fact you limited your hypothesis to a free trade agreement and the cost of leaving the EU without one being agreed.

    My argument is that yours does not acknowledge the customs restrictions and checks and the attendant issues concerning the use of designated ports. That would make the economic cost of duties rather academic if we are actually unable to legally export goods to the remaining EU states because we had left the EU without any agreements on those matters.

    Incredible as it may seem I had noticed you weren’t talking about Antarctic conservation. But I believe it usefully illustrated for readers that the leaving the EU is more complex than simply saying cheerio and declaring ourselves independent. The issue of customs and designated ports etc, which is something I have covered here before, is just one of many essential matters that have to be resolved before an exit.


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