EU has turned into a sclerotic monster – Eurosceptic MEP David Coburn
The European parliamentary vote brought new faces to the seats of power, and parties long unknown rose to popularity. Eurosceptics have become a formidable political power. In Britain, people threw their support to UKIP, which says that leaving the European Union for good would be the only right decision for the United Kingdom – but will the nation really go so far? What will happen to the EU if Britain waves goodbye? Today we ask these questions to a member of UKIP and European Parliament. David Coburn is on SophieCo.
Sophie Shevardnadze:David Coburn, UKIP’s Scottish MEP, thanks for joining us. It’s great to have you on our program today. Now, fwe’re going to start with the latest news – the European Commission has demanded a six billion hike to its budget...now, where is that money going?
David Coburn: Well, that’s a good question – where is that money going? They don’t seem to know where the previous money has gone, for 19 years they haven’t been able to audit their accounts.
SS: Now, you guys after the elections have 24 places in the European Parliament. Is that enough to do anything, to change anything?
DC: Well, the problem with the European Parliament is that being a member of European Parliament is like being a eunuch at an orgy. The problem is that you don’t actually have any real power. You can’t suggest legislation; you can only react to it. So what I’ll be doing is doing my best as my party will be to highlight the more ridiculous aspects of the rules and regulations they’re trying to bring in, and trying our best to stop that which we can. With 24 members that should be a lot better than it was before. We have a good team here, they are a good quality team, they are all very united and very together; we will be making a mark, and in not only just one part of the UK, but over the whole of the UK, including Scotland and Wales, and we will be able to take the case from all those parts of the United Kingdom to the EU.
SS: Talking about what’s going on inside the UK – I remember in the 2009 European Elections your party had similar success – it got very good points, but it failed to win a single seat in the parliament later in the general elections. Are you afraid the same thing may happen this time around?
DC: I think there’s a great change now in the UK – I think people have had enough of the establishment parties, they have mucked it up, and they’ve made a mess of the whole thing. People want change, and I think we’re now on that brink now, it’s almost like a revolutionary change, the way that people are looking at politics in the UK, and I think that they want UKIP to come and break the former two-party, three-party system. I think that we’re about to break through in a major way at the general elections.
SS:You’re still pretty controversial, especially with the establishment – I mean, Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander suggested people have turned to UKIP as a protest vote. Do you believe there is some truth to that?
DC: I should think they have turned to us as a protest vote, but there is more than just that. It’s, say, a rejection of the establishment which have led us to the financial banking catastrophe we had recently, we’ve not made a very good job of getting out of it, a professional political class that seems immovable – and quite frankly people had enough. They want to change, they want to have their own say, they seem to be ignored by the political class, they want real people in parliament, and that’s what UKIP is going to give them.
SS:Let me ask you this: let’s say UKIP doesn’t make it into parliament this time around, but other parties who do, they adopt some of your policies in order to win the votes. Would you consider that as a success for you?
DC: Well, obviously, but I can’t think what parties those might be. I think UKIP in the United Kingdom is basically the third party now. We were the first party in the European elections, and we hope to carry that through and become the first party in the UK. Obviously, realistically, we expect to win some seats at a general election, and our objective is at least to uphold the balance of power.
SS: And in terms of creating a larger platform in the European Parliament – I mean, you guys, UKIP would still need support from a group in the parliament. Are you or are you not going to form a bloc with France’s Front Nacional?
DC: At the moment we are trying to form a bloc; Nigel Farage, our leader, is doing that at the moment, he is very good at this sort of thing. We seem to be getting somewhere; we are making headway, it’s looking very good. But you’d asked me another question...?
SS:I was asking you about a specific platform, if you were going to actually unite with France’s Front Nacional, with Marine Le Pen.
DC: We will not be doing business with Madame Le Pen and her party. This is not our sort of thing. They are not our sort of people, and quite frankly, that would be unacceptable. The trouble is in the European Parliament, the European Parliament makes strange bedfellows. You have to get into bed with all sorts of people you wouldn’t take home to see your mother!
SS:That’s what I’m saying – can you not set differences aside and work with Marine Le Pen, per se, for the sake of the bigger cause?
DC: No. They are a socialist party, and also they have a lot of history of anti-Semitism and that sort of thing. Absolutely unacceptable to UKIP, we are an anti-racist party, we don’t believe in that sort of nonsense, it is certainly not our way of doing things. It’s very un-British, as we said; we have nothing to do with it.
SS: Now, David Cameron has launched a real campaign to block Jean-Claude Juncker from becoming Europe’s next EU commissioner – is that something that UKIP supports?
DC: Well, the last person we’d want to see is Mr. Juncker running Europe. He’s an absolute catastrophe of the first order. Obviously, Cameron’s trying to save face by claiming “Oh, look, we stopped Juncker,” but they’ll put in someone equally appalling. I can assure you of that. If it’s not Juncker it will be someone equally bad. Cameron will try to make some big issue: “Look how clever I’ve been, I’ve stopped Juncker,” but that’s not going to wash with the British people, the people have seen it all before, they’ve had it all before, and all the candidates that are standing for that position are equally appalling.
SS: But this is probably not the only point that you agree with – you and Cameron; Cameron also says he plans to hold a referendum on leaving the EU. Curbing immigration is also on the Conservative’s agenda. So, what’s the big difference between your parties, at the end of the day?
DC: The big difference is that Cameron promised that the last time, before the last European election, and didn’t deliver it. Cameron promised it again, and he promises it after the general election. He’s not going to get elected anyway. So, quite frankly, that’s an empty promise, and this is the same empty promise he made last time. Nobody believes him. You know, his nickname is 'Cast Iron Cameron,' he has “cast iron” guarantees, which he absolutely ignores. He’s not going to give a referendum, the man is a Euro enthusiast, the last thing he’s going to do is to give a referendum on in-or-out of the EU. The only party that’s going to do that is UKIP.
SS: So, you don’t think the referendum is going to take place within two years, even though he promised it would?
DC: No, I don’t think so. He has no intention whatsoever. Cameron is Euro enthusiast, he has absolutely no intention of giving anyone a referendum about anything. He didn’t do it last time, he won’t do it this time.
SS: And you guys are great Eurosceptics, so you’re all for leaving the EU, but do you not think that it would have certain repercussions and consequences for the UK – at the very least, economically?
DC: Well, of course there are consequences, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. We’ll be able to organize our own economic future, we won’t be tied down by the EU when it comes to international trade treaties, and we won’t be burdened by the enormous burden of laws, rules, and regulations, which cause Europe to be the sclerotic monster it is. The reason that Europe is going down all the time is because the rules and regulations are killing it, strangling business, they are anti-competitive, anti-business, and you only have to look at the disaster that is taking place in Spain, Italy, Greece, to see the catastrophe that’s awaiting everyone. It is something we should definitely get away from, we don’t want the euro, and the euro is a catastrophe…
SS: But you don’t have the euro. I mean, I would think that the UK is in a very privileged position compared to other countries, you don’t even have the Schengen zone, but you do have great trade going on with all the European Union countries, and all the privileges that an EU member country gets. Do you think you’ll be able to pay checks once you’ll leave?
DC: Yes. The Germans want to sell Mercedes to us, we want to buy French champagne, and they want our goods, so of course, trade is going to continue as usual. There’s not going to be any difference. Everybody wants to do business; we don’t need to be linked to each other as one great nation to be able to do business. We did perfectly well before the EU, we’ll do perfectly well after it.
SS:So, the British exit – how big of a blow would it be for the European Union itself, what do you think?
DC: If Britain leaves, it will probably be a mortal blow for the EU, because – where are they going to find the money? At the moment, the main countries supporting the European Union are Britain and Germany, and quite frankly, I don’t think the EU will be able to stagger on in its present form, if at all, after we leave. Basically, it’s bankrupt; it’s unworkable, too many people wanting money and not enough people willing to pay money into it. So, quite frankly, it is an economic mess. The euro is a catastrophe, it is not an economic currency, it’s a political currency. It has no proper economic foundation. As such, it has created disaster in southern Europe, million people marching on Madrid, complaining about unemployment, Molotov cocktails being thrown around in Athens, and Italy talking about breaking up into constituent parts. It’s been disastrous for Europe.
SS:Do you feel there are disadvantages to being a single issue party? What I mean is that if the UK leaves the EU, what then for UKIP?
DC: Well, we will hope to take over government in the UK. We’ve been advancing steadily, at the next general election we’ll have the trampoline of coming number one in the European election, we’ll be looking to take a lot of Westminster seats, and we’ll be looking to form a government in the UK as soon as we can get enough people in parliament to do so.
SS:Right. I understand that you would want to be the government and take Westminster seats, but what would be your agenda in terms of if the main issue at hand is gone, and the UK leaves the EU – what’s the second biggest issue?
DC: UKIP is more than just anti-European or anti-European Union. That’s not what we are about. We’re about an entire change in the way Britain is governed. We oppose the current political class, we want to remove this professional class, Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats – all the same sort of people. Cameron, Miliband – they all are the same sort of persons; none of them ever had a proper job in their lives. We want to see real people going to parliament, people with real-life experiences. Now that’s a sort of people who stand as members of parliament for UKIP, that’s a sort of people we want. People are fed up with professional politicians, professional political class, they want real people who have real experiences running the country. That’s what we stand for.
SS: What [different things] would you offer to people, that Cameron doesn't offer them, or any other ‘professional politicians?' What is different about you that you’re offering to the people, in terms of agenda?
DC: UKIP has support from all different parts of society, we attracted a great deal of Labour voters coming towards us, they feel that the Labour party no longer represents the working man. It’s some sort of middle class bleeding heart society, the Conservative party is only interested in the big business, their bottom paid for by big business, and Liberals’ bottom paid for by the EU, one assumes, they seem so obsessed by it, so quite frankly, the only party that really seems to represent ordinary people, small businesses, and a change in the way the country is governed is UKIP.
SS:From what I understand UKIP also supports the five-year ban on immigration to settle, alongside this system of temporary work permits. What do you think – was it the immigration issue that won the Euroseats for UKIP in the first place?
DC: The European open-door immigration policy has been a catastrophe. If we have open-door immigration – we simply can’t have it, we can’t budget for schools, we can’t budget for pensions, we can’t budget for anything, if you don’t know who is coming to the country, or how many people come to the country. It also creates a great deal of problems socially, and in terms of salaries. People at the bottom of society feel that their salaries are being crushed and they are not seeing as much money as before, there is a lot of competition coming from elsewhere. That’s simply not on – we can’t have that sort of thing going on.
SS: You know there is OECD research that actually found migrants each make a net contribution of $2000 a year to the British economy. Do you simply just not believe that?
DC: Well Migration Watch came out with different figures; everybody comes out with different figures about that. Yes, if I were living in Romania or a country like that, I would be heading for Britain as fast as I could. I certainly wouldn’t be heading for Spain or Greece, or any of these European countries which are bankrupt at the moment, thanks to the European Union and the euro. I’d be heading to the UK. Everybody wants to have better lives, but there is not a question of that, the question is that we cannot just have unlimited immigration. It’s not fair to the people who live here at the moment. We want to give everyone the opportunity to come, if they are going to contribute something to the economy, but we cannot just have mass open door immigration, it’s impossible.
SS:Now, of the economic subject that still has to do with immigration – another interesting thing in Britain is the Sharia courts and the Sharia street patrols. In Britain! What are your feelings about that?
DC: Utterly unacceptable! There is only [one] law in Great Britain, and that is the Queen’s law. That’s it. The Queen and parliament make a law. Parliament in Great Britain is totally sovereign, we cannot have other bodies making any other form of law. That’s utterly unacceptable. People come to Britain – they come because they respect our institutions and they want to live under our institutions, so they obviously should respect these institutions. We can’t have a state within a state, that is utterly unacceptable.
SS:Do you feel in general that Islamic extremism, or the Islamization of Europe, is as acute of a problem for Britain as it is, for example, for France?
DC: This is a very, very big question. If people are coming to settle in Western Europe, or they are coming to settle in England or in France, they should respect the laws of those countries. They obviously bring something of their own culture with them, which always adds to the general spice of things and makes things more interesting, but those are the settled laws and the ways of doing things in those countries, and we just can’t have people coming along and changing things in that way, especially in ways which we consider – I certainly consider – utterly unacceptable.
SS: What do you think about the Scottish referendum in September? Do you think it’s staying in the UK or it’s leaving the UK? What are your feelings?
DC: Scots will make up their own mind, but my personal belief is it will be 70-30 or 60-40 against independence for Scotland. We’ve had a 300-year-old alliance, Scotland has a 300-year-old alliance with England, which benefits both countries and made able both of us to push above our weight on the world’s stage. We have brought liberal democracy to the world, we brought parliamentary government to the lot of the world, and we have brought peace to the world. We fought together, as had the Russians, against fascism in Europe. We’ve done lots of things together, what’s not to like about that? Mr. Salmond is not offering independence anyway, Mr. Salmond, who is the leader of the Scottish National party and is the first minister of Scotland, he is offering rule from Brussels, because he wants to remain part of the EU, he wants to offer rule from Brussels and financial rule from Frankfurt. That’s not independence.
SS:Let’s say the UK survives the Scottish referendum…
DC: Oh I think it will.
SS: Do you think things will stay just the same, or there will be drastic change in the governing system?
DC: I think that’s to be discussed after the Scottish referendum. At the moment, there is a bidding war between all the parties offering the Scots lots of different goodies. Quite frankly, UKIP is not doing that. We want Scots to make up their own mind, they are quite capable of doing that themselves.
SS: Let’s talk a little bit about a topic that actually worries us the most in this part of the world, which is Ukraine. Now, one of the leaders of the anti-Kiev movement in eastern Ukraine issued an appeal for help to UKIP, expecting your party would understand eastern Ukraine’s reluctance to be part of the EU. Do you understand where these people are coming from?
DC: Well, no. Quite frankly, this whole business in Ukraine is caused by the EU and particularly by Cathy Ashton; she’s quite unqualified for the job as European foreign minister or whatever she is called. This is the EU trying to do a bit of empire building, extending into Ukraine and making offers which they cannot fulfill, because the EU hasn’t got money to rebuild the Ukrainian economy. They’ve led the Ukrainians into a false sense of security, which is absolute nonsense. When the Berlin Wall came down, when Russia changed from being a communist nation, the general idea everybody understood [was] where the demarcation was between the Russian zone of influence and the European, the Western zone of influence. That’s been respected here before, but this is not respecting Russia’s sovereign territory or indeed, Russia’s zone or sphere of influence. I think interfering with that and making Russia feel rather uncomfortable is creating problems throughout the EU. It’s worrying people right on the frontiers from Poland to Estonia, all along that frontier [people] are concerned about what the EU is doing and Crimea. We should leave it strictly alone, it is not for us to interfere in that regard. I mean, Mr. Putin is a very strong man, I don’t respect everything he’s done, I particularly disagree with what’s happened about homosexuals in Russia, I think that’s quite appalling, but, you know, he is a strong man, he runs the country, he must be respected, and Russia is a strong nation, which we must respect. They are big players on the world’s stage, we can’t go around fighting with them, and the EU seems to not understand that. Their empire-building has got out of control, it has caused nearly a very, very serious situation – amateurs, getting involved into things they do know nothing about.
SS:Now, Cameron has threatened more sanctions against Russia over the whole Ukrainian crisis. Do you think the country will go along with that, especially taking into consideration how much Russian money there is invested into the British economy as of today?
DC: I think it's nonsense, all these tit-for-tat sanctions against Russia. Russia’s a sovereign nation, we can’t do business with Russia if we treat it like that, some sort of pariah – we simply cannot do this sort of thing. We have to respect Russia’s integrity; we have to respect frontiers and zones of influence. I think this is not the way to go about things with Russia. People should talk quietly in the corridors of power, we should not be having a shouting match with megaphones – this is absolutely not the way to do this.
SS:UKIP’s leader called the EU’s proposal of partnership with Ukraine a “massive provocation.” He said: “This demonstrates danger of EU’s foreign policy.” What do you think – maaybe joining the EU could now help Ukraine?
DC: No, I don’t think so, I don’t think the EU has got the money to deal with it; who is going to pay for this? This is going to be the German or British taxpayer. I’m afraid we just don’t have the money to start propping up Ukraine. We have enough troubles in our own economy. If Mr. Cameron thinks he can prop up Ukraine, then he is crazy. Quite frankly, we should not be getting involved in this, we don’t have the money to deal with it, and we don’t have the ability to deal with it. We should not be interfering in Russia’s sphere of influence; it’s a very bad thing.
SS: Thank you so much for this interesting interview. We were talking to David Coburn, UKIP member of European Parliament for Scotland. We were talking about whether the UK should stay within the EU or not. That’s it for this edition of SophieCo, we will see you next time.