‘Are my children going to grow up in a country that they can call their own?’ – UKIP leader

In anticipation of a promised referendum of the UK’s membership of the EU, the key issue is whether Britain will get its democracy and self-governance back so that the future generation can call the country ‘their own’, UKIP leader Nigel Farage told RT.

‘What happens to UKIP (UK Independence Party) doesn’t matter. The reality of course is, we’re a party with a plan of what we should do once we leave the EU. But that isn’t the issue. The issue is: are my children going to grow up in a country that they can  call their own?’ said Farage.

The biggest problem on the table of the EU membership debate in the next few years will be the open-door immigration policy at a time of 22 percent youth unemployment in the country, he added.

‘The key issue that will return will be open-door immigration. That is going to become the number one issue when it comes to the referendum. Above everything else is what people are going to vote on,’ Farage said.

According to UKIP leader, the country’s labor market will not be able to handle more people who will come to settle in Britain.

‘There is a risk over the course of the next few years that very considerable numbers of people will come. And frankly I don’t think our labor market or our social security system can bear it,’ he said.

United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) supporters hold Union Jack flags and placards as they take part in a demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on October 24, 2011. (AFP Photo / Carl Court)

RT: You keep a seat at the anti-EU party, but we’ve seen David Cameron put the promise of the in-and-out referendum on the table. So that’s your thunder stolen, isn’t it?

Nigel Farage: Well, he said if he wins the next general election, and that looks pretty unlikely. Following the renegotiation, which given the temperature in Brussels looks virtually impossible. In 5 years’ time he is going to give us a say on whether we should be part of the EU. There is one really one big problem with that: we’ve done it all before! In 2007 he gave us a cast iron guarantee, if he became a prime minister we will have a say in the Lisbon treaty….And frankly I don’t believe him, I don’t trust him. And what people say to me – we don’t want to wait 5 years, let’s have a referendum before the next general election. If he’d said that, I’d cheer him to the rooftops.

RT: If we do get a referendum though where does that leave you, the UKIP?

NF: That doesn’t matter! What matters is that we get the independence, democracy and self-governance of this country back. The reason we’re in this mess is because 20 years ago at the time of the Maastricht treaty, Tory members of parliament decided that the wellbeing of their party’s unity mattered more than the independence of our country. I’m not going to make the same mistake with UKIP. What happens to UKIP doesn’t matter. The reality of course is, we’re a party with a plan of what we should do once we leave the EU. But that isn’t the issue. The issue is: are my children going to grow up in a country that they can call their own?

RT: Do you think you are winning the battle proving to the British public that you can be a serious credible political party?

NF: Well if you look at the opinion polls, and you look at our performance at the recent by-elections, people aren’t voting for us just on the constitutional question of Europe, they are voting for us because of our stance on open-door immigration, they are voting for us because we are a party that believes that social division has become wider and wider, the abolition of the grammar schools... There are actually a lot of strong and positive reasons why people are voting for UKIP.

A man walks past the British UK Independence Party (UKIP) office in Eastleigh, southern England, on February 25, 2013. (AFP Photo / Adrian Dennis)

RT: Let’s talk about immigration. The coalition said they are getting serious about it.

NF: Yes, you’re absolutely right. David Cameron was in India. He said that there will be ‘no upper limit, I repeat, no upper limit’ on the number of Indian students who can come to Britain and settle there after. He spoke also about Romania and Bulgaria having full access to the UK labor market and social security system up 2014. But even that is not enough for David Cameron. He wants Turkey to join the EU with the free rights of access for 80 million people. So that’s what Davis Cameron is on immigration. He is encouraging open-door immigration. In fact just in the same way that Tony Blair did. 

RT: What would you say to criticism that your views on immigration are fuelling prejudice?

NF: I resent that and reject that. If people are deeply prejudicial against those from oversees they can go and vote for BNP. Don’t vote for us, go and vote for the BNP if that’s how you feel. If you are like UKIP, and you wish people in Romania and Bulgaria well, but you don’t think that a total unlimited open-door is a responsible thing to do at a time of 22 percent youth unemployment then come and vote for UKIP.

People walk past an Indian food stand at a street in northwest London. (Reuters / Suzanne Plunkett)

RT: What are your concerns about immigration when it comes to Romania and Bulgaria?

NF: Never in our history until 2004 have we ever had a complete unlimited open door. Ever since 1945 we’ve had an immigration policy in Britain. Something like 30 to 50 thousand people a year for that 50 year period came and settled in this country. Over the last seven years it’s now between five and six hundred thousand. Nothing like this have ever happened in history. The danger with Romania and Bulgaria is that we’re dealing with countries that are several times poorer than Poland and Latvia and Lithuania and the ones that accessed the UK back in 2004. There is a risk over the course of the next few years that very considerable numbers of people will come. And frankly I don’t think our labor market or our social security system can bear it.

RT: Do you think it was the right move to attach this issue of Romania and Bulgaria immigration at the beginning of next year so closely to your party?

NF: I believe, even though I doubt the sincerity of Cameron’s pledge on the referendum, that what he’s done, he let the genie out of the bottle. We are going to have in the next few years a big and honest debate on whether to remain part of the EU or not. The key issue that will return will be open-door immigration. That is going to become the number one issue when it comes to the referendum. Above everything else it is what people are going to vote on.

RT: So you say you are standing up for the British people.

NF: Well, particularly unskilled labor, they are having a very difficult time. And equally, the skilled labor is having a very difficult time because of the massive price cutting. I do understand that if you’re a big employer that the open-door immigration is a very good thing. You can pay people far more cheaply, you can get people to work on building sites and save yourself some money and that does push down wage inflation in this country. I accept that, I understand that. But on the other hand, if that is directly putting people into the situation of unemployment, it’s good for the big employer but it certainly isn’t good for the country.

Demonstrators cheer during the migrant's day march for immigrant rights in Trafalgar Square, London. (Reuters / Luke MacGregor)

RT: So you say you stand up for everyone, but what exactly do you mean by that?

NF: I think there is a feeling, I share it, that we now are run by a political class of people, they all go to the same schools, they all go to the same Oxford colleges, they all take the same degrees, they all marry each other’s sisters, and they all finish up going from research offices strait into Parliament. You can’t put a cigarette paper between them in terms of policy. They have no hobbies or interests or what Denis Healey used to call, hinterlands. They don’t even collect stamps these people. They spend their weekends together talking about politics. They’re utterly disconnected from the thoughts, hopes and aspirations of the ordinary working family in this country. And I think we as political party are far more in tune.

RT: You made your name for making comments like that, you’re a vibrant character. Do you think you are a politician or polemic?

NF: Well I hate to think myself as a politician. I was in business for twenty years. I only got in politics because I felt the entire political class is taking us down the road towards the entire United States of Europe. That would mean not only our democracy, but our whole place in the world would be severely diminished. So I got into this. Indeed, in this very town that we’re sitting in today, the town of Eastleigh, I was UKIP’s first ever candidate and I stood in by-elections here nearly 20 years ago. And I believe even more strongly that if our politicians were out of touch nearly 20 years ago when they took us into the exchange rate mechanism and signed the Maastricht treaty they are even further out of touch today.

RT: So we leave the EU, what happens to trade with the EU countries?

NF: I tell you what; I’m absolutely convinced that my favorite rioja producer will want to go on selling many many cases of it to me. I’m certain that Mercedes will want go on selling their cars from big showrooms in London. And remember that the last year we have trade figures for, we traded with the EU with a deficit of 46 billion pounds. A cumulative trade deficit over the last five years alone of 200 billion sterling.  We are EU’s biggest export markets in the world. We get all this rubbish put out by Mandelson, Kimmel or Heseltine and all those ghastly people telling us that if we weren’t part of the EU all the economic activity of Britain with the EU would seize. It’s absolute rubbish. Nowhere in the world do you need to be in political union to buy and sell widgets from each other. It is arrant nonsense.

RT: Do you think that Britain should be building trade links with other countries? China, for example.

NF: Dave Cameron was in India with a great big travelling circus, supposedly the biggest ever trade mission that the British prime minister has ever been on. What is true that we can trade within here. The one thing that Cameron could have put on the table to really secure vibrant exciting trade relationships with India he was incapable of doing, He wasn’t able to go to India and say – ‘right, let’s have a tariff free trade deal between our two countries!’ And we can’t do that because we are trapped in this completely outdated concept of the EU customs union. We are banned from making trade deals, the world’s sixth largest trading nation. It’s funny because we are told  that you must be part of a big block! Well, look at Switzerland, it’s a tiddler of a country in terms of population. And yet the Swiss have more trade deals with the major non-EU economies around the world than we do.

British Prime Minister David Cameron visits the Sikh Shrine Golden temple in Amritsar on February 20, 2013. (AFP Photo / Narinder Nanu)

RT: Independence is your party’s tagline. What does independence mean to you?

NF: That means you govern your own country. That British people at their general election put people into Westminster and it’s those people alone that decide what employment regulations are, what our overseas policy is, what we should be doing about Britain’s looming energy crisis. And that parliament is able to take those key decisions and at the end of a 4 or 5 year period we, the British people, can assess them, we can boot them out or pick somebody else with a completely different manifesto. One of the reasons why general election debates in Britain are now limited basically to schools and hospitals is because on virtually every other area the legislation that is made in Brussels cannot be changed by the British government or British parliament. It has narrowed in political debate in this country.

RT: So as the defender of independence, you back the Scottish independence referendum.

NF: I can’t understand anything Alex Salmond has said for twenty years.

RT: Isn’t he the Scottish Nigel Farage?

NF: No, he’s a con job, because he’s been saying that we can leave Westminster and be an independent state in the EU. Well, hang on, sorry! You can’t be an independent state and be part of the EU. And actually Salmond’s position has changed. Now he wants to keep the pound, he wants to keep the Queen, he seems to be quite pro-military cooperation as well. And even his independence in Europe line has been dealt a fatal blow by Mr. Barroso. I didn’t think that I would have to say anything nice about Mr. Barroso. But he has said that if Scotland leaves the UK, you have to reapply the EU and sign a treaty that committed Scotland to joining the euro. Scottish people looked at that and said ‘no thank you very much indeed’. So I think the independence referendum in 2014, I doubt that more than 25 percent of people will vote for independence and we will have proper debate on the relationship between Scotland and Westminster. Personally, I’m pro more devolution. I’ve got no difficulty with the ‘f’ word, with the federal structure within the UK, but I do think that the Scots should be raising more of their own money and spending more of their own money.

RT: Do you see yourself as a prime minister?

NF: It’s pretty unlikely. We are third in the opinion polls, above the Lib-dems, we’ve made huge progress I very much believe in the European elections next year. We’ve got a serious chance of winning those elections nationally. I think it unlikely that we are going to be the biggest party in Westminster. What we could well do, we could catalyze some sort of realignment of British politics. It is pretty clear to me that the Conservative Party is in the deepest crisis in history. There are two distinct wings of the Conservative Party. They don’t agree with each other on virtually anything. I think if UKIP gets much stronger than today we could see something new and quite exciting in British politics. 

RT: Thank you very much for joining us.