The following is a guest post by Roger Helmer, a former MEP and a former Chairman of The Freedom Association.
As the old song puts it, “Sorry is the hardest word to say”. It’s also dangerously ambiguous. If I accidentally step on a friend’s toe, I say “Sorry”, and I mean that I accept it was my fault, I regret it and I apologise. If on the other hand my friend gets a terminal cancer diagnosis, I also say “Sorry” – but I mean something quite different. I mean that I deeply regret the news and sympathise with the friend. But I don’t accept responsibility, because I didn’t cause the cancer. And I don’t apologise, because it is not something I did, and to apologise for something one did not do is an empty, pointless and vacuous gesture.
So with slavery. I greatly regret that Britain was involved in the slave trade, and that Britons and British companies profited from slavery (whilst also remembering that virtually all races and nations in history have owned and traded slaves – this is not a black and white issue). But I don’t apologise for it, because like everyone else in Britain today, I didn’t do it. It was abolished by the UK in 1833. I was born 111 years later. And I take great pride (for my country, not for myself) in the fact that the UK was the first country in the world to abolish slavery; that the Royal Navy played a pivotal and sustained rôle in interdicting the trade in the Atlantic; and that Britain stumped up a huge amount of money to compensate owners for freeing the slaves (not that slave-owners had any moral right to the money, but without it the slaves would not have been freed). The words “ransom” and “redemption” spring to mind.Read more
The following is a guest post by Roger Helmer. Roger was a MEP representing the East Midlands from 1999-2017, and is a former chairman of The Freedom Association.
We’re accustomed to hear Michel Barnier (and others in Brussels) insist that the UK can’t “cherry-pick” its trade agreement with the EU. It’s a term they seem to apply to anything short of total acceptance of the acquis communautaire, since almost by definition any agreement will address some issues and not others. Yet Monsieur Barnier is the biggest cherry-picker of them all. He has said he’d be prepared to offer the UK a Free Trade Deal (FTA) on goods, but not on services.
Well of course he would. The EU has a massive trade surplus in goods with the UK -- £95 billion in 2017, according to the Commons Library briefing. So free trade in goods is massively to Brussels’ advantage. On the other hand the UK has a much smaller surplus in services with the EU -- £28 billion. So an FTA in services would benefit Britain – but far less than the EU’s benefit on goods. Any sensible British negotiator might have said “OK – we’ll talk about an FTA covering goods and services, even though that’s a huge concession on our part, given Brussels’ overall trade surplus with the UK. But you can’t cherry-pick goods, which work in your favour, and exclude services, which work in our favour”.Read more