As part of our ongoing series of posts looking at the UK’s (increasingly precarious) place within the EU, we recently put some of your questions to Nigel Farage MEP, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP). Parts one, two, three and four of our series are online already, and we will be publishing a special report at the end of the series, including highlights and unpublished interviews.
Mr Farage is speaking today at UKIP’s annual party conference in Birmingham. Yesterday, we asked him to respond to a couple of the comments you’ve sent us about the future of the EU. We began with a comment from Lee, who was responding to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso’s recent call for the EU to become a ‘Federation of Nation-States’. Lee argued that: “A federation is just as bad as a superstate. A confederation is just about bearable.”
How would Nigel Farage respond?
I don’t see why we should put up with any structures which might be described in these terms. We need democracy – otherwise, we get tyranny. We need national sovereignty – otherwise, we cannot have democracy; and we need transparent diplomacy, voluntary cooperation and free-trade agreements between nations in order to foster prosperity and peace. We can forget centralisation and homogenisation (what Brussels calls ‘integration and harmonisation’). They are stupid, injurious and wrong, whatever the result may be called.
Next up, we took a comment from Morag on the question of Scottish independence: “If the UK position is to renegotiate its terms with the EU or to withdraw from membership, this position should be made clear when discussing the question of Scottish independence. Otherwise, Scots are being misled on what ‘better together’ actually means.”
The position of Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) is intentionally ambivalent and misleading, because the parties of government are intent on pretending to care about British interests, while preserving the dominant position, which support from the EU affords them. HMG has no intention of materially altering its relationship with Brussels (and the EU’s backers in Washington) even if it is obliged, by referendum, to repeal the ‘European Communities Act’. The EU-parties (Lib/Lab/Con) would merely maintain de facto EU-adhesion – as the Norwegian government does – even if ‘membership’ were removed de jure. It is not only the Scots who are being misled about HMG’s intentions and suffering from its duplicity. UKIP’s intentions are, however, perfectly clear.
Finally, we had a comment sent in from jmcloed, who suggested we should: “Build the EU on consensus and referenda and it might work. But that would mean asking the electorates of Europe what they think, in a democratic vote. And at the moment the elites are terrified of a public vote.”
Since this hypothesis has never been, and never will be, tested, one cannot say definitively that it is futile. However, its likelihood is akin to that of distant stars’ being made of green cheese, because multilingual democracy is a near-contradiction in terms: any attempt at it, within a centralised political unit, leads to central dominance through a process of ‘divide and rule’. You can tell one nation one thing, and another nation something else, because there is no real communication between the media-circuses of the two, let alone adequate discussion between electorates.
However, even sham-democracy of this sort is – as you say – a step too far for the EU. It wants central dominance (‘integration’) and utter subjection of its parts (‘harmonisation’) as a primary condition of its existence. Indeed, the EU will – in my view – quickly dissipate, when it loses its desperate grip on the autocracy to which it has always clung.
Earlier this week, UKIP published a booklet entitled: “A Referendum Stitch-up: How the EU and British elites are plotting to fix the result“. Is this a sign that UKIP are starting to take an EU referendum in the UK as almost a done deal, and are now beginning to turn their attention to the question of how such a referendum might be won?
As several of our other interviewees have pointed out, in any (potential) referendum the framing of the question would be important. Would it be a straight “In” or “Out” question, or would there be a third option for renegotiated terms with the EU (“In”, “Out” or “Shake-it-all-about”)? Would there be a renegotiation process before the vote? A July 2012 YouGov poll found that most UK voters – 42 to 34 percent – would vote to stay in the EU if membership terms were renegotiated.
We asked Nigel Farage how UKIP would respond if anything were offered besides a straight “In” or “Out” vote. Would he be prepared to boycott the referendum?
I think we would have to. Anything else would be taken as public consent for continuing subjection to a supranational order, which UKIP completely rejects.
What do YOU think? Would a UKIP boycott call the legitimacy of any referendum on British membership of the EU into question? Would national referendums help strengthen democracy in the EU? Or is multi-lingual democracy simply a ‘contradiction in terms’? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy makers and experts for their reactions.
Nigel Farage is a British MEP and leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).