If you’re a committed reader, you’ll know that the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and Member of the European Parliament Nigel Farage appears many times on these pages, mainly in relation to offending someone, something or generally being a scamp. More seriously, his anti-EU party UKIP have been gaining headlines recently due to increased support for their message, notably having come second in the Eastleigh by-election in February, beating both Labour and the Conservatives.
So, what is their message? And what’s the deal with Nigel?
UKIP: Their basic manifesto
Recent polls have put UKIP on an approval rating of 18 per cent, much more than that of the Lib Dems (8 per cent), and not far off the Conservatives (28 per cent), with Labour leading on 38 per cent. It seems that we should start taking them seriously sooner rather than later, but what is the essence of the party – are they more than just anti-EU?
We believe in the minimum necessary government which defends individual freedom, supports those in real need, takes as little of our money as possible and doesn’t interfere in our lives. – UKIP website
- Founded in 1993 on the basis of withdrawal from the EU, known then as the Anti-Federalist League.
- Labels itself as the UK’s ‘third poltical party’, believing itself to have surpassed the Liberal Democrats.
- They describe themselves as the ‘radical alternative’ to the other three main parties.
- They believe that there should be as little government as possible: ‘We believe in the right of the people of the UK to govern ourselves, rather than be governed by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels (and, increasingly, in London and even your local town hall).’
- They emphasise that they are not racist, xenophobic or discriminatory in their beliefs, although they often are put under the same umbrella as the BNP.
- They have no representation in the House of Commons.
- Three peers in the House of Lords are members of the party.
- It is right-leaning, though Nigel Farage has stated that he is firmly libertarian and not Conservative.
- They hold 12 of the 73 seats assigned to the UK in the European Parliament.
- In the 2009 European Parliamentary elections they received 16.5 per cent of the vote.
- For the 2010 election they focussed on creating policies on a wider range of issues – outside of EU membership – based on what they call ‘Common Sense Britain’.
The UKIP view on Europe
- In short, UKIP believe that the European Union has too much decision-making power over Britain, and believes that it is not democratic, too expensive and we would be better off out. They want to withdraw from the EU entirely.
- They label the EU a ‘symptom not a cause’ of the ‘theft of democracy’ from the British people.
- In their 2010 general election manifesto, they held the belief that withdrawal from the European Union will contribute to three main freedoms for the UK:
- Freedom of action – this means that if the UK withdraws from the European Union we will no longer have to ask the EU for permission on how we spend our money. The EU does not have the competence to review national budgets outside the eurozone.
- Freedom of resources – i.e. by leaving we’ll save money: ‘The UK will save £6.4bn a year in net cash (rising to £10bn next year) to spend how we wish. The overall cost of our EU membership is estimated by the TaxPayers’ Alliance at some £120bn p.a.’ The figure of £120bn is the EU entire annual budget, not what the UK contributes to the EU. The UK pays in around £12 billion. The UK is a net contributor, meaning that it pays in more than it gets out in monetary terms. We get about £6.2 billion back from this. This is because we are a rich country and the benefits make up for it – our trade within the EU in February 2013 alone was around £12 billion. UKIP do have this right, though: we import £4.6 billion more from the EU than we export. This does not include economic benefits, such as the jobs that are created directly from our membership – usually cited at around 3 million. These jobs wouldn’t disappear if we left, but would be dependent on our trade with Europe. Figures published in February 2013 by the International Trade in Services, cited by the Office of National statistics, have the EU as 50 per cent of our export market and 51 per cent of our import market in 2011. In March 2013, UKIP MEPs voted against cutting the recent EU budget because it ‘did not go far enough’.
- Freedom of the people – ‘We will no longer be governed by an undemocratic and autocratic European Union or ruled by its unelected bureaucrats, commissioners, multiple presidents and judges.’ The EU only acts with the competence voted for by the Member States in the Treaties. However, in some areas their interpretation of the treaties can mean that their actions push the boundaries and this is where problems regarding democracy arise, so UKIP may have a valid point here. This is what the CJEU is for, to review the decisions of the EU and Member States can challenge the validity of acts. What is UKIP doing about the democracy defecit? According to British Influence and figures by Votewatch.eu, since 2009 the majority of UKIP MEPs are in the bottom 50 (out of all 752 MEPs) for their roll-call voting attendance. Out of their 12 MEPs, 10 of them do not vote between 43 and 54 per cent of the time (including Nigel Farage). Of the other two MEPs, Roger Helmer votes 75 per cent of the time and there was no corresponding statistic for the Northern Irish MEP Trevor Colman. UK MEPs overall (including those not from UKIP) have the third worst ranking for participation at roll call votes (where the vote is recorded) and the absolute worst ranking for participation out of all Member States for plenary votes (where many votes are done in one session and is done by a show of hands, only when the vote is unclear are the vote counted electronically).
To learn more unbiased and not-at-all-scaremongering information about the EU, visit UKIP’s The Truth about the EU page.
Who?! Profile on Nigel Farage
Occupation: Leader of UKIP (founding member in 1993) since 2010 and MEP for South East England since 1999, co-chair of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy political group in the European Parliament (of which UKIP forms a part)
UK election history: contested the Buckingham seat in the 2010 general election which required a resignation from the leadership of UKIP, came third with 17 per cent of the vote. Also contested seats in Bromley and Chislehurst in 2006 (8.1 per cent); Thanet South in 2005 (5 per cent); Bexhill and Battle in 2001 (7.8 per cent) – losing each time.
Education: did not go to university and instead worked in the City as a commodities broker
Political leanings: describes himself as libertarian and firmly not a Conservative, he defected from the Conservative party after they signed the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992
- The contesting of the Buckingham seat in the election was controversial because the sitting MP was John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons. Usually, Speakers’ seats are not contested because they are politically neutral.
- He called the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy a ‘low-grade bank clerk’ and Belgium a ‘non-country’. He refused to apologise and was fined €3,000.
- The BBC made a documentary on his European election but refused to show it after Nigel asked for a copy of it to give away free to his friends and in the UKIP magazine – he was accused of copyright infringement.
- In 2009 he welcomed the MPs’ expenses scandal in also highlighting the cost of MEPs on the taxpayer. It was later revealed that he had, since his election in 1999, claimed a figure ‘pushing £2 million’ of European taxpayer’s money to fund his Eurosceptic message back home, on top of his then £64,000 salary (MEPs are now paid £72,000).
Top quote: ‘I have been called a great many things in my time – that’s politics.’
Do: watch to see whether David Cameron will deal with UKIP at any time soon, it would be difficult for him contest the party’s policy on Europe and please the Eurosceptics in the Tory party
Don’t: watch him on Question Time if you have any knowledge of EU law at all, or know anything about the EU, or don’t like lies. His stock answer: ‘Well, this is Europe’s fault, isn’t it?’.
MOVING ON: Recent legal news
C‑335/11 and C‑337/11 – H Danmark v Dansk almennyttigt Boligselskab and Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening: The decision of the ECJ was published this week in regard to the definition of disability in the Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation. This was the first decision in regard to disability since the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was created in 2010. The case concerned the interpretation of the relevant articles in the Directive in light of the UN Convention. It moved away from the previous restrictive definition which treated disability and sickness as two different things. The Court was in favour of the broader definition in the Convention itself, so disability now includes:
those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.
In relation to the facts of the case, severe back pain and whiplash was held to come under the definition of disability. Discrimination against the claimants was therefore found.
Pursuant to the eurozone banking union, Germany has demanded that a treaty change must be made before the union can take place. The proposals provide for a single authority to wind up banks. The banking union is a plan to bring all the banks in the eurozone under the supervision of the European Central Bank.
Continental news round-up
Speaking of the ECB, Spain has joined France in requesting a clarification of the ECB’s mandate in order to bring it in line with other monetary authorities around the world.
The European Council President’s haiku this week is about owls.
In the dead of night
an owl’s hoot echoes in the void.
Hardly a soul listens.
This week the Huffington Post reported that Europe loses €1 trillion a year through tax evasion and avoidance. In response to this news, Herman Van Rompuy called for tougher Member State stances on unpaid taxes in order to boost Europe’s economy.
After a series of financial scandals in France, French government ministers will have to publish details of their financial affairs in a bid to be more transparent and regain trust from the electorate.
EU tweet of the week
Remember that thing I said about Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) not turning up much? He’s either highly self-critical or highly hypocritical:
Eurocrats are paid huge amounts of money in inverse proportion to the amount of work they do.
His profile picture is him holding a dead sting-ray.
The absol-EU-tely must read article of the week
I promise I do read articles other than those written by the BBC’s Europe editor Gavin Hewitt, but this one’s goodie about Thatcher and Europe:
Coming next week
- More European legal news
- More Continental news
- Not one mention of Nigel Farage
- and much much more…
The ELB is written by Associate Editor of TSL, Natalie Hearn. Law Graduate from the University of Birmingham, prospective EU Law Masters student, currently teaching English in Japan. Follow her on Twitter: @ninjahearn