Martin Callanan MEP is Chairman of the European Conservatives. This is his monthly letter to ConHome readers. Follow the ECR Group on Twitter.
As EU leaders met in Brussels to discuss energy prices and tax evasion, the European Parliament was in Strasbourg again for our monthly session, once again highlighting the folly of the Parliament's travelling circus.
It wasn't the heaviest agenda we've had, as the Commission begins to churn out less legislation towards the end of its term. However, a few significant votes were heavily improved thanks to the work of Conservative MEPs.
Firstly, MEPs voted on proposals to update regulation on oil and gas drilling. The review was the result of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and initially a number of MEPs from the left had sought to use the incident to impose a moratorium on all drilling operations across Europe. Thankfully, we were able to kill that suggestion at an early stage. However, when the Commission brought forward its initial legislation, we were worried that it would be harmful for the North Sea installations.
As it stood, the law was a regulation, which directly imposes strict technical standards from the centre, yet similar to those that already operate in the North Sea. Our lead MEP on the issue, Vicky Ford, was able to change this proposal line-by-line from a regulation into a more flexible directive, which allows for greater interpretation at the national level. Seeing as the EU was seeking to impose UK standards on the rest of the EU, a regulation would have done nothing to improve safety around our shores, but it would have required the technical manuals and procedures to be completely re-written, at a cost of over £140 million in legal and administration fees.
Instead, thanks to Vicky's work, this won't be necessary, and instead of the tick-box safety culture that the Commission wanted, we will now have a culture of learning best practice from each other - which has been the approach that has made the North Sea the global standard since the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988. At a time of high energy prices, Vicky has been able to avoid adding costs onto energy producers that would have been pushed through to consumers in their bills.
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By Tim Montgomerie
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It wasn't so long ago that Tory MEPs seemed most enthusiastic about European integration and in that enthusiasm they were much more out-of-step with grassroots opinion than the party leadership in Westminster. Not so true any longer. Although some of the long-standing divisions in our MEPs group remain it contains many mainstream Eurosceptic voices. Most interestingly its leader is a refreshing voice of sanity as his monthly parliamentary reports for ConHome confirm (here's his most recent).
Let me, therefore, echo yesterday's piece on the Mail website by the Freedom Association's Simon Richards in praise of Martin Callanan:
"Martin Callanan, the Leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group of MEPs, is reported by the Press Association as saying of Greece that 'economic reform will, in the long term, be essential. But in the short-term, there is only one solution: a devaluation coupled with a default is the only way to salvage something from the wreckage of the Greek economy and to save a generation or more of young Greeks from a miserable economic inheritance'. It's time for other politicians to be equally honest about the solution to the shambles they have created. The British Government should not pay another penny to prop up the Euro."
The Express also reports Martin's words:
“EU summits are becoming a political ritual, divorced from the real world – nobody believes that the latest package will save Greece,” he said. All the energy being devoted to drafting and ratifying a new treaty would be better employed implementing a plan for the orderly withdrawal of Greece from the euro, including carefully prepared support for the banks most affected. Everything else is just a very expensive exercise in kicking the can down the road.”
And while we are on this subject Peter Oborne's piece in today's Telegraph really is a must-read. The article's title - The callous cruelty of the EU is destroying Greece, a once-proud country - says it all.
Of course, we were supposed to be feeling "isolated". That was according to the newspapers with a federalist leaning - and especially if you listened to the BBC.
We were meant to be marginalised and misled too, but above all - "isolated". That was the buzzword on every corporation newsreader's lips and every euro-mad leader-writer's spell-check.
Yet isolated was about the last thing Tory MEPs were feeling as we gathered in Strasbourg for last week's plenary session. On the Monday after "Veto Friday", we felt united, hopeful, energised: all of those things; but isolated? Not that you would notice.
"Isolated" implies vulnerability, fear, even regret. On the contrary, Conservatives were feeling confident, invigorated and - not to put too fine a point on it - right.
Inevitably, there was a backlash against us in the parliament chamber. On Tuesday, the EPP's leader Joseph Daul provocatively said the Prime Minister's veto showed we in Britain lacked "solidarity" with the rest of the EU. He said we should therefore forfeit our hard-fought rebate (or as much of it as Labour hadn't already handed back). If anyone still thinks we should never have left the EPP, please take heed.
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