I can’t remember when I saw such good news on one day. Of course, first of all you’ve got to get past the routine but accelerating bad news of the €uro crisis. One of the papers compares Greece to Icarus of Greek legend — flying so close to the sun that his wings melt. But the crisis (and I write as the Greeks vote) has resonances of that legendary Greek troika: hubris; nemesis; catharsis.
Hubris at the proud launch of the single currency, set to dominate the world (we were told). Nemesis upon us now, as the climax of the crisis approaches. Catharsis delayed until the single currency project finally breaks up, leaving a much reduced and chastened eurozone based on Germany, while former eurozone members reinstate their national currencies and steadily recover competitiveness and prosperity.
But I was celebrating the good news. First, “On-shore wind subsidies to be phased out by 2020”. Of course 2012 would be better than 2020, and I’m not clear whether this will apply to existing installations, or only to new ones. But nonetheless, it’s time to crack open the champagne.
On Friday I was a witness, as UKIP Industry and Energy Spokesman, at the Batsworthy Cross Wind Farm Appeal near Barnstaple, Devon. I was not arguing against government policy (that’s not allowed in such an enquiry), but I was making the point that government policy is rapidly changing, and the proposed development might well not fit into future policy. I listed the Chris Heaton-Harris letter to the Prime Minister from 100+ MPs calling for an end to on-shore wind; Osborne’s remark that “You don’t save the planet by destroying the economy”; media reports that the Treasury is pressing for a cut of 25%, not 10%, in on-shore subsidies; Ed Davey’s reported announcement that no new on-shore planning applications will be entertained after those currently in process are dealt with; and the recent draft energy bill, which mentions on-shore wind only in the glossary, and only there to point out that on-shore wind operators might in future have difficulty selling their output.
So I was a bit surprised when the barrister for the developers RWE said I had provided no evidence of a change in policy, merely of my wish for a change. I opened my reply by regretting that he apparently hadn’t listened to what I said — and then took the opportunity to reiterate the points above. If only today’s news had also been available as well.
The same barrister seemed relatively unfazed when I pointed out that the Chief Executive of RWE Renewables, Fritz Vahrenholt, a long-time green campaigner, had recently changed his position, and now no longer believes in man-made global warming. He has written a book entitled “The Cold Sun”, which argues for multiple causes of climate change, and especially solar activity. I propose to blog on Vahrenholt’s recent presentation in London if my spy agrees for me to use his material.
And more good news: “British Industry is turning against the EU”. It seems that British companies are realising that the regulatory costs of the Single Market outweigh any trade benefits — a point I have been making for years. Last week I made this point in the Strasbourg plenary, and I was “Blue Carded” by Malcolm Harbour MEP (Con, W. Mids). He insisted that the Single Market is neither a Free Trade Area nor a Customs Union, but a wholly new and superior form of organisation. See the exchange here.
Of course he is quite simply wrong. On any definition, the Single Market is indeed a Customs Union, a Zollverein (in the German), with a common external tariff. It just so happens that it is overlaid by a massive, onerous and vastly expensive layer of regulation and red tape — which hardly increases its performance. The research by British Chambers of Commerce shows that firms are now recognising this, and many agree that a simple Free Trade Area would be a much better proposition. Firms are also turning their attention away from the sclerotic eurozone, to the more dynamic and profitable markets of the BRICs. And about time too. I was of course delighted that this study neatly rebutted Malcolm Harbour’s intervention, and endorsed my remarks.
We don’t get much good news in the papers, but these two stories made my Sunday.