The British Conservative candidate for European Parliament President has warned that leaving the European Union could cost the United Kingdom its seat on the United Nations Security Council.
“There’s a huge amount at stake and our population needs to be educated about the consequences of this merry dance that [UK Independence Party leader Nigel] Farage and his crew want to lead us on,” Sajjad Karim told EurActiv.
The UK will hold a referendum on its EU membership in 2017, if the Tories, Karim’s party, wins the next general election. This year will see Scotland vote on whether to leave the UK.
Even if Scotland votes against independence from the UK, the referendum on EU membership has the potential to break up the United Kingdom, Karim said in a wide-ranging interview.
“The question is what will the people of England vote for? If based upon an English vote the entirety of the UK is put on a merry march out of the EU - then I am afraid a huge question mark will once again arise over the UK’s unity,” he said.
Should Brexit lead to Scotland leaving and Welsh and Northern Irish discontent, the UK’s seat in the UN Security Council would be at risk. “We hold a seat on the security council as a United Kingdom. I don’t see a scenario in which the likes of China and Russia will allow that seat to be maintained by England alone,” he said.
Karim, a member of European Parliament for the North West of England for ten years, is the European Conservatives and Reformists choice to succeed German Socialist Martin Schulz as Parliament President (more here).
He called on the EPP and all the other group leaders to unify behind his candidacy. But he predicted that the “old forces” of the European People’s Party and the Socialists would come together in “backroom deals” to ensure he was not selected.
“Unify behind by candidacy rather than just once again go into a room, close the doors, exclude everybody except those that are in your small club and do a deal and then announce to the people of Europe that this is something they are going to get even though they have asked for something fundamentally different,” he said.
In the interview, Karim said there was nothing in the treaties that could be interpreted as meaning Jean-Claude Juncker must be the next European Commission President. British Prime Minister David Cameron looked increasingly isolated today in his campaign to block Juncker's appointment, after Sweden and the Netherlands softened their opposition (here).
He argued that the rise of extremist parties in Europe was a warning to the European Parliament. “The reason that people voted for them was to send us a very powerful message to say ‘Stop. We fundamentally reject the way in which you are carrying out politics at a European level.’”
Karim conceded the admission of Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland into the ECR could complicate Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to bring German Chancellor Angela Merkel behind his reform agenda.
He accused the European Commission of “trying everything, even through the back door” to block the European Parliament getting additional powers.
He also discussed the relevance of his identity as a British Muslim of Pakistani origin and his “fundamental belief” in the European Union.
No debate on European politics
The need for the referendum was caused by the UK’s national leaders shying away from discussing European politics for the last forty years, Karim said.
“Had Europe been a part of the debate over our national elections, today there would be no need for this referendum,” he argued.
Ironically, the politician who has done the most to bring European politics to public attention in the UK is Nigel Farage.
Karim said, “Yes he has but through an agenda of misinformation. So much of what he and his party has put out has actually been factually incorrect.
“National leaders have to step up to the mark and say, ‘Actually this part of what this man has just said is completely incorrect.’”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg took on Farage in two televised debates “To try and overturn forty years in two debates was, I am afraid, a miscalculation of strategy,” Karim said.
Karim believes the referendum could “lance the boil” by giving Briton the chance to have their say on European politics and that the UK will ultimately vote to stay in the EU.
He added, “I do not just want my country to be a member of the EU, I want it to be a leading member of the EU.”
- 18 September: Scotland votes on independence
- 1 July 2014: Election of the new Parliament president in Strasbourg
- 2017: Mooted date for UK referendum on EU membership