U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage is ready to enter into coalition negotiations following the 2015 election with any party that offers a speedy referendum on the nation’s membership of the European Union.
“If after the next election UKIP has a number of MPs in Westminster would we do a deal with the party that would give us a referendum quickly on our continued membership of the European Union?” Farage said on the BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show” yesterday. “The answer is ‘of course’ -- but the trouble is Labour will match this pledge.”
While currently holding no seats, UKIP has come close to winning its first parliamentary district, coming in second in the past six special elections. Farage, whose party wants Britain to leave the EU and crackdown on immigration, has said he will resign as leader if he does not win “several” districts in the May 2015 ballot.
Farage’s comments open up the possibility of UKIP supporting a Labour Party administration, despite a number of shared aims with Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party. Labour leader Ed Miliband hasn’t promised a referendum on U.K. membership in the EU.
“UKIP is not a splinter of the Conservative Party,” Farage said yesterday. “The vast majority of our members, of our candidates, have never been members of the Conservative Party and most of them have never even voted Conservative.”
The Times reported Feb. 26 without saying where it got the information that Miliband is preparing to offer a referendum on EU membership.
UKIP ranked third with 12 percent support among voters, according to a YouGov Plc poll for the Sunday Times newspaper published yesterday. Labour scored 38 percent, ahead of the Conservative Party’s 34 percent. The Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in the ruling coalition with the Tories, had 9 percent support. The survey of 2,099 voters was conducted Feb. 27-28.
UKIP has gathered support amid increasing anti-EU sentiment. Cameron has promised to win new membership terms for Britain and hold a referendum on whether to leave the bloc in 2017 if he retains power next year.
Conservative Party members vary on how to deal with immigration and UKIP’s electoral threat. Former Tory Defense Secretary Liam Fox called on Cameron to ditch his pledge to bring net migration down to the “tens of thousands” and instead focus on curbing the number of low-skilled migrant workers to see off UKIP.
Fox told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper yesterday Cameron may be guilty of “dangerous complacency” if he fails to address the damage Farage’s party could do, calling for a “clearer narrative” from the Tories on immigration. Farage is “personable and reasonable” and many of his views were shared by “decent and patriotic people,” Fox said.
Tory Chairman Grant Shapps, sitting alongside Farage on the “Andrew Marr Show,” said UKIP could not deliver reform of state-funded benefits or immigration and could only serve to help Miliband walk into power.
Meanwhile Tory Cabinet minister Theresa May retaliated against comments made by Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable after he welcomed a rise in net migration as good news for the economy. Home Secretary May wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper yesterday that she does not agree with Cable’s assessment, and blames his party for blocking further reforms to freedom of movement laws to reduce EU immigration.
Last March, UKIP scored nearly 28 percent in Eastleigh in southern England, its best ever result in a House of Commons election. The Liberal Democrats held the seat with 32 percent.