The Brussels Diary: Inaugural Edition

Alexandra Swann writes her inaugural diary for The Commentator as a UKIP member stranded in Brussels

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"Democracy? No, not here!"
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Alexandra Swann
On 22 June 2012 14:57

This week in Brussels has been intensely busy because the Helmer ship appears to be sinking rapidly - both Francesca and our local Assistant are distinctly unwell and I fear I am consequently on course for Typhoid. But it was still a tranquil amble through a meadow in comparison to last week's mission to Strasbourg.

This week is a Committee Week and the ACTA vote finally happened with UKIP MEPs voting against en masse. On Monday I had a working dinner-debate with the European Energy Forum on the Emissions Trading Scheme; on Tuesday Professor Vahrenholt - formerly an outright Greenie, Environment Minister in Germany and CEO of RWE Innogy's renewables division who has recently converted to sceptical sanity -was in town for the UPEI conference – cue great excitement from Roger; Tuesday evening we had the great pleasure, courtesy of Nirj Deva, of a dinner invitation to the private residence of Her Excellency the Ambassador of Bangladesh to discuss Bangladesh's position in global affairs; and Wednesday I had too many meetings then drinks with Open Europe, an oil lobbyist, a journalist and a Lib Dem MEP - an amusing group.

YOU ARE FUNDING ENVIRONMENTALISM

A report by the TPA shows that total EU funding to environmentalist groups has reached nearly £75 million of taxpayers' money. I am not surprised, merely horrified. Squandering taxpayers' money to fund campaign groups or charities with political motives - such as the RSPCA, who are currently prosecuting the Heythrop Hunt despite consulting on 130 staff redundancies - is intrinsically wrong. Not only are European taxpayers forking out €100 million to subsidise these groups but we pay yet again through higher energy bills, new taxes and further regulation. To quote someone wiser than me, "it is policy based evidence making not evidence based policy making" - green lobby groups are paid by the EU to lobby the EU with what it wants to hear.

The EU's commitment to environmentalism is engrained and seemingly unshakeable. Monday's dinner-debate (not taxpayer funded) on the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme posed the question of "why the (ETS) model must be improved", implying the scheme itself is fundamentally sound. Only Roger and I questioned the premise - not only whether the ETS is a constructive tool for reducing emissions but whether we should care about emissions at all. "Green growth" is an oxymoron and what we need is growth not green. 

The EU is the only group/country on course to meet Kyoto emissions targets. It is rushing to make European energy the most expensive in the world, rendering European industry uncompetitive and pushing jobs and investment out of the EU - and the groups lobbying for these policies are paid for by you. The ETS is a complicated, unworkable, bureaucratic mess, the failure of which was predicted long ago - much like the Euro - and global warming is used by the EU as an excuse to undermine national sovereignty. How to improve the ETS? Abandon it. And while they're at it, stop funding politically motivated campaigns.

TEAM CARR

The only sin Jimmy Carr is guilty of is hypocrisy. His only act that offends me - aside tragic comedy - is his habit of espousing every liberal-left piety, not his decision to take legal measures to reduce his tax bill.

Who in their right mind pays more tax than they have to? Loop-holes exist to be exploited and anyone with common sense and a decent accountant has a moral duty to do so.  I was surprised, disappointed in fact, to hear that Boris is paying such a horrendous amount of tax unnecessarily but I assume that is a reflection of a political prowess not shared by Ken, whose tax avoidance engendered a grudging respect from me. 

Income tax should be set at a flat rate - anything else is illiberal and wrong. To summarize the arguments of Robert Nozick: a man taxed at 20 percent loses 1 hour in 5 as forced labour, a man taxed at 40 percent loses 2 hours in every 5, ergo income tax is not only theft but slavery and "progressive" income tax regimes enslave some more than others. Any true egalitarian would believe in a flat tax. Even those who support aggressive tax policies designed to punish "the Rich" for having the audacity to create wealth and jobs, reduce the burden on the state via private education & healthcare and support HM Treasury through greater than average consumption, must admit that simplification of the system is the only answer.

We urgently need substantial tax reform in the name of liberty and economic growth. My move to UKIP was fuelled not by Euroscepticism, although that exists, bubbling beneath the surface, but because UKIP advocate grammar schools and flat tax. We would combine NI and income tax to create a flat rate of 31 percent (we would also abolish the death tax). This is still too high, but it is a start. And in case anyone questions how this would be funded? Real, substantial cuts in public spending rather than slight reductions in projected spending amounts, and the £40+ million we send everyday to the EU might help too. Perhaps we could have a "Socialism" box on tax returns that allows you to pay an additional five, 10 or 20 percent tax if you so desire? It would earn you a panel position on 10 O'Clock Live and Owen Jones would love it.

BARROSO AT G20

After a couple of months in this place few examples of wasteful ineptitude or woeful delusion still shock.  I wrote a fairly vitriolic blog post a few weeks ago about the EPP sponsored all-day football tournament (complete with DJs & cheerleaders) on a Tuesday; I've slowly accepted that few here work Fridays, the building is currently near empty, but a few hundred publicly funded staff taking a full day off to indulge in a wildly distracting party just takes the piss, non?

However, to hear the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, mount a spirited defence of the EU's handling of the financial crisis at G20 almost moved me to tears of resignation. The crisis originated in North America and Europe was "contaminated", he claimed, "We have not come here to receive lessons in democracy", he repeatedly insisted.  Yes, Barroso, because the EU "Parliament" is the citadel of transparency, the Commission a bastion of democratic fervour…

Since moving to Brussels and working for this beast I've received countless messages via twitter telling me not to "go native"; admittedly, I hadn't a clue what this meant, but after a little asking around I can assure all concerned that I am about as likely to "go native" as I am to become a Union Pilgrim and join the SWP.

Thanks for taking the time to read - more next week and until then my website is www.alexandraswann.com

Alexandra Swann lives and works in Brussels as a Parliamentary Assistant for a UKIP MEP. She is an active member of UKIP and works for the European Parliament solely to ensure its inevitable demise. Alexandra tweets at @alexandralswann

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