10:53 Wednesday 23rd January 2013
Andy Harper Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[A]NDY HARPER: Let’s talk to the Euro MEP Paul Nuttall, who is Deputy Leader of UKIP. Paul, good morning to you.
PAUL NUTTALL: Morning.
ANDY HARPER: So, I think most people are suggesting that Mr Cameron’s speech, and not necessarily a U-turn, but a slight change in direction, is down to the pressure being put on by your party.
PAUL NUTTALL: Well I think it’s a testament really to the hard work of our members, and the hard work of our party over the past ten years. Because ten years ago you couldn’t even talk about the prospect of leaving the European Union, or having a referendum, without being seen as being on the fringes of politics. And I think that the fact that a British Prime Minister has come out, and spoke about a referendum is testament to our hard work. However, I will say that I do feel as if Cameron is playing politics here. He’s throwing a little bit of red meat to his own grassroots, to his own members, who are flocking to the UKIP cause, but at the same time kicking this whole policy, this whole idea of a referendum, five years down the road. And it’s all hypothetical isn’t it, because it’s all based on the idea that he will win the next General Election. In all likelihood, if you look at the opinion polls at the moment, (5 SECOND BREAK).
ANDY HARPER: On the other hand Paul, there are many people who perhaps have voted Labour in the past who would .. who have equally negative feelings about the EU, and therefore who might be tempted to vote for Conservatives this time around to get the promised referendum.
PAUL NUTTALL: I don’t think you’ll find very many people who will swap from Labour to Conservatives just on this issue. I understand that the people who would have voted Labour feel very let down by the Leader Miliband, who has said quite openly now that he doesn’t want to have an in/out referendum on this issue. But they are right about one thing. I will give Labour this. They have said that what Cameron has done by kicking this five years down the road will create confusion and uncertainty for British business and the British economy. What we’re saying is simple. Give us that in/out referendum now. Let’s have it in this parliament before 2015, because that was in the Conservative manifesto, and it was also in the Liberal Democrate manifesto too. So let’s stick to their manifesto pledges and let’s have that referendum before 2015.
ANDY HARPER: So no renegotiation, simply go for an in/out referendum now.
PAUL NUTTALL: Well you can begin the renegotiation now. But the problem that you’ve got with the renegotiation is that you’ve got the French President, you’ve got the Dutch Prime Minister, you’ve got the former President of Belgium, you’ve got Herman van Rumpuy, the President of the European Council, and you’ve got President Baroso, who’s the President of The European Commission, who basically said that you can’t shape it, you can’t do this. So actually I think that renegotiation is doomed to fail anyway. Let’s have this referendum. Let’s do away with any uncertainty. And let’s make these two political parties in the Coalition stick to their manifesto pledges.
ANDY HARPER: Now obviously, as well as receiving pressure from Eurosceptics in his own party, the Prime Minister has seen the Tories coming under increased pressure from UKIP. You’ve only got to look at the last tranche of local elections .. by-elections to realise that. Now if .. do you think that he has drawn your sting at all? In other words, will this maybe stop the bandwagon of UKIP?
PAUL NUTTALL: I think it’s very politically naive on his part, to be perfectly honest with you. Because what he’s done is he’s actually taken the debate on to our turf, but not gone far enough to placate the public, which is overwhelmingly Eurosceptic, and also placate his own grass roots. So in effect what he’s done is he’s taken the argument to us, but has given us a great advantage. And what we’ll be doing is testing the water next year in the county council elections, which you’ve got right across Cambridgeshire.
ANDY HARPER: Does it also mean that UKIP will come under increasing scrutiny ahead of the next General Election? Because people, lots of people have contacted us and have said, look, that’s the way they’re thinking of voting. We heard from a Labour MEP, Richard Howitt, who said basically you are a one-issue party. He agrees with the Prime Minister’s view of UKIP’s elected representatives, said you don’t turn up in Parliament in Europe, but you take all the benefits. All of these things are going to come under scrutiny, aren’t they?
PAUL NUTTALL: Well I hope it does come under scrutiny, and I hope the whole issue of Europe comes under scrutiny. Because the organisation that Mr Howitt supports actually costs this country £53 million a day. And that’s just in membership fees. If you take into account the cost to comply with regulations and directives this is costing us around £100 billion a year. The organisation that Mr Howitt supports is so undemocratic that all the decisions, the real decisions are taken by the European Commission. And we as MEPs can’t initiate any legislation, but vote on what people who are unelected and meet in secret tell us to vote on. That is totally undemocratic, and totally wrong, and that is one of the reasons why the British people are demanding a referendum.
ANDY HARPER: But do you and your fellow UKIP MEPs turn up regularly to the European Parliament. Or do you say look, we want no part of this, whilst at the same time taking the money?
PAUL NUTTALL: Well you say taking the money. The fact is that someone like Mr Howitt will earn a lot more money than me, because every day that he signs his name into the European Parliament, no matter what he does, he’s picking up a cheque for £280 a day, just for signing his name. I don’t go that often. I stood on a mandate in the North West of England and said look, I don’t believe in this. I believe the Committees are just there to justify the existence of MEPs and have no real power. So therefore I don’t go. I only go to plenaries to vote on issues that affect Britain, and give speeches that allow me to vent my spleen about how awful this organisation is, and tell people via YouTube usually, just how awful and how terrible this place is for Britain. So no, I earn a lot less money than Mr Howitt, who’s probably making himself a very rich man out of the European Union.
ANDY HARPER: So you can see this becoming the big issue of the next election? Because that was also the point Richard Howitt made, which was when people go to the polling booths in 2015, they’re not going to be really thinking about Europe. I suppose they’ll be thinking about the economy. But then that is linked to Europe.
PAUL NUTTALL: Well actually of course it’s linked to Europe. You just look at the membership fees that we give, and how much it costs us to comply with these directives and regulations. But I think what Mr Cameron has done now is he’s taken the issue on to our turf, and he’s made Europe an issue at the next General Election. And that is something that we welcome, because I suspect that we’ll be going into that General Election after winning the European Elections in 2014. And we want the issue of Europe .. because we think that this organisation is so corrupt, it hasn’t had its accounts signed off for seventeen years, so undemocratic, so costly. We can’t control our own borders whilst we’re members of it. So we want this debate out there, because we believe we will take the British people with us.