My Column – Ending roaming charges: a wolf in sheep’s clothing

Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, the United States of America, Israel, Switzerland, Macau, New Zealand, Sri Lanka. What do these countries have in common?

The answer is, on my mobile phone network it’s free for me to use my mobile phone in any of those countries (within my regular monthly allowances). There are no mobile phone roaming charges at all. They are also countries outside the European Union.

In fact, there are more non-EU countries than EU countries where it’s free for me to use my phone abroad. That’s the free market at work. Customers demand a change, and mobile phone networks work with partners abroad to ensure savings for the consumer. What a wonderful thing the free market can be, when it works well!

Oh, there are certainly industries and times where a free market can break down, and there are extreme situations where government intervention might be necessary but, in general, government meddling makes things worse while competition leads to lower prices and consumer choice.

The free market says that actually, for most consumers, it’s more important to end mobile phone roaming charges from the USA than it is from Belgium.

The free market tells us that it’s better to have free calls from Australia or Sri Lanka than it is to have free calls from Estonia or Lithuania.

Perhaps that’s because, in general, it’s of more benefit to consumers. Or maybe it’s because it’s easier for phone companies to work together to provide that benefit.

Within the continent of Europe, the free market already gives free calls to me if I travel to France, Italy, Switzerland or Spain.

That’s pretty useful for tourists, isn’t it? They’re destinations that tourists often travel to and, in the case of Switzerland, there are probably financial reasons too.

So far, so good. There’s been no mention of the words “European Union”. But the EU now intends to make mobile phone roaming charges illegal across all 28 European Union countries. Yes, they’re going to force mobile phone companies to provide a “free” service to consumers.

What does the word “free” mean in this context though? Well, it means that mobile phone companies will have to provide a cheaper service in countries where their business model doesn’t support it. If you force companies to do something unprofitable, they respond quite naturally by putting their prices up elsewhere.

It means that, in order to get free calls from Latvia, I will have to pay more on my monthly phone bill. I note that the Labour Party members of the European Parliament are generally highly supportive of this idea.

It’ll mean free calls for those working in Belgium – great for MEPs in Brussels, but I personally think it’s fundamentally wrong for us to all pay extra on our monthly phone bills to make sure that MEPs get free calls when working in Belgium.

An idea which sounds so brilliant in theory – “Cheaper calls for every tourist” – actually means higher monthly phone bills in practice. That’s the European Union way. They claim to give us all extra freedoms, rights, cheaper prices but, like everything that’s supposedly “free”, there’s always a catch.

The problem is that the European Commission and Parliament are in a bubble so detached from the people that they fail to spot the unintended consequences of their actions. The only people telling them are UKIP, and they won’t listen to us. We’re not pro-EU, you see.

Likewise, when the commission arbitrarily changed the definition of the word “refugee”, Nigel Farage warned them in April that it would lead to migration on an unprecedented scale.

A few months later, they scratch their heads and wonder why no one told them that the refugee crisis would happen.

When we warned year in, year out, of the dangers of the euro, many in the Labour Party wanted us to join the euro anyway. Countries pressed on despite the economic madness of trying to have one size fits all policies for countries as disparate as Germany and Greece.

And so, today, the Greek economy is in chaos, shackled to a euro that it daren’t leave.

So, when the EU promises the end of roaming charges, it hasn’t thought through the consequences of its actions.

I’m not ashamed to be a dissenting voice.

I’m not ashamed to vote “no” to the end of roaming charges, because I don’t want consumers to have to pay more for using their mobile phones.

This article was originally published in the Journal on 29/10/2015

Brussels stamps a claim on British agriculture

Tens of thousands of farmers across the UK are being forced to put up EU propaganda –  and to pay for the privilege.

Under new guidance put out by the Government any farmer who receives more than £7,700 in agricultural subsidies from the EU will have to pay to put up posters advertising this.

Those who receive more than £388,250 must display a permanent billboard and those getting £38,825 for capital items must put up a plaque at least one square foot.

Local UKIP MEP, Jonathan Arnott said: “It’s an outrage that our farmers in the North East are obliged to get involved in the EU propaganda machine especially when this money came from the British taxpayer in the first place.

“There are thousands of faceless bureaucrats in Brussels whose whole reason for existence seems to be dreaming up interfering and pointless rules. And here we go again and those farmers who disobey face being penalised.

“We have to hand over £350 million a week to Brussels and they so graciously deign to give us less than half back. Demanding that farmers who benefit from the Countryside Stewardship scheme erect gratitude signs is a disgrace.

“It is particularly galling as our agricultural sector faces increasing financial problems but meanwhile the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy costs Britain an estimated £10 billion a year,” said Mr Arnott.

He also pointed out, “I don’t think this is a coincidence that we are going to see more EU gratitude plaques erected in fields during the EU referendum campaign.”

Commission Question – Allocation of funding for cross-border cooperation

Question for written answer E-010273/2015

to the Commission

Rule 130

Jonathan Arnott (EFDD)

Subject: Allocation of funding for cross-border cooperation

How much funding has been given to candidate countries for cross-border cooperation since their application to become a full member of the EU, with particular reference to Montenegro, which applied for EU membership on 15 December 2008?

EN

E-010273/2015

Answer given by Mr Hahn

on behalf of the Commission

(27.10.2015)

EU assistance to Cross-border Cooperation (CBC) in the Western Balkan region is provided through the Instruments for Pre-accession IPA (period 2007-2013) and IPA II (period 2014-2020) and the following types of Programmes:

– CBC between 2 IPA beneficiaries. 11 Programmes (3 with Croatia as IPA beneficiary before EU accession) are implemented in the period 2007-2013 with an overall budget of EUR 100 million of which EUR 18.4 million for Montenegro. For the period 2014-2020, 8 programmes are on-going with a budget of EUR 85 million of which 37.1 for Programmes in which Montenegro participates.

– CBC between one EU Member State and IPA beneficiaries (ERDF and IPA funding).   8 Programmes (2 with Croatia as non-member state before EU accession) are implemented under IPA, with a budget of EUR 120 million. Montenegro does not participate. Under IPA II, EUR 227.81 million have been allocated to 10 Programmes. Montenegro participates in 2 Programmes (HR-BiH-MNE and IT-AL-MNE) with an overall budget for the IPA II beneficiaries of EUR 67.97 million.

– Transnational Cooperation Programmes (TCP) funded through different instruments: ERDF, IPA/IPAII, ENPI/ENI.  In the period 2007-2013, IPA contribution has been provided for 2 Programmes:

1.     Adriatic Ionian CBC Programme with an IPA budget of  EUR 113.8 million;

2.     South East Europe TCP with an IPA budget of EUR 26.9 million;

Montenegro participates in both Programmes.

Under IPA II, 4 Programmes are under implementation with an overall budget of EUR 50 million (Montenegro participating in 3 of them) broken down as follows:

1.     Danube TCP, EUR 19.82 million;

2.     Adriatic-Ionian Programme EUR 15.68 million;

3.     Mediterranean Programme, EUR 9.35 million;

4.     Balkan-Mediterranean Programme, EUR 5.12 million.

Voters should be given a say on North East devolution

When asked about the North East devolution deals that will be implemented today, UKIP North East MEP Jonathan Arnott commented “I have mixed feelings about the deals being signed today. On the one hand, I want more power to come down from central government to the local area.  But on the other, I have serious reservations about this deal.  Will local Council leaders unite to veto any proposals they dislike which come from the Mayor?

In Tees Valley, I doubt that redistributing £15 million a year of taxpayers’ money will make much of a difference. In the North East authority, I suspect rural areas will miss out badly in an authority dominated by the big cities.I don’t see that the power to increase taxes is especially useful at a time when hard-working families are already struggling to make ends meet.  The bottom line is that people should be given a say, in May 2016 to coincide with local elections where they have them, to vote yes or no to this deal. That would be democracy.”

UKIP Councillor Steve Turner added, “£15 million a year is a drop in the ocean compared to what we will need to rebuild after the loss of SSI and the consequent knock-on effect on our local economy.  I’ve spoken with colleagues on Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council to question why the people of Teesside haven’t been asked whether they approve of this.

Commission Question – Christian persecution in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries

Question for written answer E-001161/2015

to the Commission

Rule 130

Jonathan Arnott (EFDD)

Subject: Christian persecution in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries

According to Open Doors, countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region are amongst the worst persecutors of Christians. Does the Commission intend to raise the issue of Christian persecution in these countries, with the possibility of revising the 1988 GCC-EU Cooperation Agreement if the situation does not improve?

EN

E-001161/2015

Answer given by Vice-President Mogherini

on behalf of the Commission

(22.10.2015)

The HR/VP is well aware of the issue raised by the Honourable Member.

The EEAS is closely monitoring the situation of individuals belonging to different minorities, including religious ones, in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

As recalled in the EU guidelines on freedom of religion or belief adopted in June 2013, the right of individuals belonging to religious minorities to practice their religion and worship freely, without fear of intimidation, discrimination, violence or attack, has to be upheld.

In this respect, the EU is consistently engaged with the local authorities in an ongoing dialogue on human rights concerns and encourages reform measures. The areas of concern include among others: freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, corporal punishment, death penalty and the reform of the judiciary.

The EU will continue to support efforts that promote minorities’ rights in an inclusive society and safeguard freedom of religion or belief. People should have the right to practice their religion and worship freely, without fear of intimidation, discrimination, violence or attack.

The EU Member States have also been actively engaged in the UN Universal Periodic Review sessions on GCC countries.

Commission Question – Hungary asylum changes

Question for written answer E-010265/2015

to the Commission

Rule 130

Jonathan Arnott (EFDD)

Subject: Hungary asylum changes

It has been reported that Hungary has suspended EU rules concerning migrants applying for asylum in the first country they enter1. Could the Commission provide more details about the rule in question, and what powers, if any, does it have to discipline Member States which break these rules?

1  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-33244800.

EN

E-010265/2015

Answer given by Mr Avramopoulos

on behalf of the Commission

(22.10.2015)

Hungary had announced a temporary suspension of its obligations to accept transfers of asylum seekers from other Member States where the Dublin III Regulation1 establishes responsibility for Hungary to examine applications for asylum. Following interventions at political level, including the Commission’s visit to Hungary on 9 and 10 July 2015, Hungary resumed its obligations under the Dublin III Regulation.

1  Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person (recast)