New Eurosceptic group leader: ‘We’ll probe Irish Lisbon guarantees’

Nigel Farage au Parlement européen, 2011, [EP/Flickr]

Nigel Farage in the European Parliament, 2011. [EP/Flickr]

The Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group, a new far-right political faction in the European Parliament, intends to “invest some money getting a proper legal opinion on these ‘guarantees’ given to Ireland by EU leaders,” Nigel Farage, the group’s co-President, told EURACTIV.

An MEP since 1999, Nigel Farage has been leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) since 2006. He was yesterday named Co-President, with Italian MEP Francesco Speroni, of the new Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group in the European Parliament.

To read a shortened version of this interview, please click here.

Euroscepticism means many things to many people. How do you define the political orientation of the new Europe of Freedom and Democracy group? 

Whether Euroscepticism is a positive or negative thing is missing the point. The question is: do we actually want to live in a centralised European state or not? Surely that decision is one that should be taken by people, not by professional career politicians.

All the evidence from the last European parliament term – from the Irish, Dutch and French referendums – is that even when people say ‘No’, they are just ignored. And you cannot build a new state in defiance of the will of the peoples without storing up massive problems for the future. 

It’s not too late to reverse the building of the EU superstate. At the moment, this European project does not have popular consent. 

Do you expect the new Parliament to endorse incumbent Commission President Barroso for another term? 

No. Barroso is an absolute disgrace in terms of democracy. I asked him once in the parliament what part of the word ‘no’ he found so difficult to understand. 

Within hours of the Irish referendum result being known last year, he said that “this result must not stop the Lisbon Treaty”. He also talked about the European Union as an “empire” – that tells me as much about Mr. Barroso as I need to know. 

He’s not undemocratic, he’s anti-democratic, and he’s at the head of something which I’m afraid to say is becoming increasingly tyrannical in its nature. 

Why did your group feel the need to clarify that it rejects xenophobia, anti-Semitism and any other forms of discrimination?

If I felt that we had made deals with any political parties in European states that are racist or xenophobic, I wouldn’t have put my name forward as co-president of the group. 

It’s a question of looking at individual parties and deciding whether they are groups that take a strong and principled stance against open borders, or whether they are groups dominated by a racist, xenophobic, or anti-Semitic agenda, and I believe all the members of the new group fall into the former as opposed to the latter camp. 

Like the new European Conservative and Reform (ECR) group, your group is led by a British party, describes itself as “Eurorealist” and claims it will be the real force of opposition in the 2009-2014 European Parliament legislature. What differentiates your “Eurorealist” political agenda from the ECR, and who will be the more effective opposition? 

If the Irish were to vote ‘Yes’ in the second referendum, at that exact point, the Conservative’s opposition to the Lisbon Treaty collapses and dies, so they’re not really opposed to it in principle, and in fact, I confidently predict the Conservative group in Strasbourg will vote week after week for yet more and more centralising regulation and directives. 

The ECR claims it will be a new opposition. My response to that is: I’ll believe it when I see it. If Timothy Kirkhope remains as leader, I think “opposition” will be a very difficult word to use. 

What action will your group be taking to influence the result of the second Irish referendum? 

We intend to invest some money getting a proper legal opinion on these “guarantees” given to Ireland by EU leaders. 

They are not protocols, if they were protocols they would have legal force and would therefore be worth the paper they are written on. Then, there would be a valid argument to say that Ireland, having voted ‘No’ once, had won concessions and won a better deal.

The fact is they are guarantees, but they’re being sold as something that is legally binding, when in reality, our belief is that they are not. 

It seems various factors are coming together to weaken the Irish  ‘No’ camp ahead of the second referendum. Do you expect ‘No’ advocates to have as big an influence this time around?

When you’re taking on the entire political establishment it’s never easy, but we’re going to give it a damned good try.

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