UKIP, the eurosceptic party seeking Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, has entered the country’s political mainstream.
Polls say it could finish first in this month’s European elections.
Euronews correspondent James Franey met the party’s leader, Nigel Farage, on the campaign trail in a pub in Knutsford, northwest England.
He asked Farage about his tough stance on immigration – as well as UKIP’s controversial election posters — and why he had signed up for a second European Parliament pension if he wants to “abolish EU spending”.
James Franey, euronews: “Nigel Farage, thank you very much for being here on euronews. First of all, what kind of party is UKIP and who do they appeal to?”
Nigel Farage MEP, UKIP leader: “We’re a party of national democracy. We believe that the United Kingdom should be an independent, self-governing, democratic nation, not part of a political union with its headquarters in Brussels that now makes 75 percent of the laws of this country, costs us a fortune and stops us making our own trade deals with the new and emerging economies of the world. And that doesn’t mean we are anti-European. It doesn’t mean that south of Calais that we think everything is awful. We actually rather like Europe. But we want the whole of Europe to be a Europe of states that trade together and cooperate together. This supranational project, this attempt without the consent of the voters to build a United States of Europe will not work.”
euronews: “You also describe yourself as a libertarian party, free market. How does this current campaign on immigration square with that?”
Farage: “Well even Milton Friedman – the high priest of free trade and free markets – even Milton Friedman said you cannot have the free movement of labour between rich and poor countries, especially with the existence of a social security system. And that’s the point. We are very much in favour of the free movement of goods, capital and services. We don’t want that to be constrained just to the EU. We would like to see Britain doing more of that globally. Certainly the English-speaking countries of the world, the Commonwealth countries, would be very, very good places for us to make a start on that. But we need to have a responsible management of the labour market. And what we have done is that we’ve flooded the unskilled labour market and the semi-skilled market in Britain with migrant labour.”
euronews: “If you want to be completely ruthless about it, if I was the boss of a big business I would want to keep my wage bills low. I mean, all these businesses that you say support your party, do you really think they would want to pay more simply to have a British worker on their books?”
Farage: “I think that there is no question that big money – the big multi-national industries have benefited from this. The downside is that as a country, we have to educate their children, we have to provide accident and emergency facilities for them in our hospitals, and we finish up with a large number of our own people unemployed and being paid for by the state. So overall, whilst the big boss may be a beneficiary, overall we are not benefiting from this.”
euronews: “But surely if you were a true, free-market libertarian, you would say that it is the invisible hand that should guide who comes into our country.”
Farage: “Well, there are some things that matter more than money. Community, cohesion of community matter more, and actually it should be the job of a British government to put the interests of British people first. And millions of British families have been seriously affect by the fact that we now have an open door to 485 million people from Europe.”
euronews: “How many is too many? Because 209,000 EU migrants settled in the UK to the end of September last year. How much would like to see that cut by?”
euronews: “How much?”
Farage: “No, no. We would like it down to the low tens of thousands.”
euronews: “Thirty thousand to fifty thousand?”
Farage: “What we had from 1950 until Blair came to power. We had net migration into Britain running at 30,000 to 50,000 a year. We did that for 50 years, it was something that we were relatively comfortable with. We’ve changed that to something that is now 200,000 to 250,000 people a year net, gross half a million people a year. I don’t want to stop immigration but I want us to have control over the quantity and quality.”
euronews: “So what’s the number? What’s the magic UKIP number?”
Farage: “Well, let’s work that out.”
euronews: “But there’s an election now.”
Farage: “The election is between us and three parties who deny there is free access to half a billion people; That’s the battle that we have got to win first. At the moment there is no cap.”
euronews: “You have no number that you would put on it?”
Farage: “There is no cap at the moment that is worthy of its name. We have no control over the numbers of people coming into