UKIP: Split It or Quit It
Anna Berankova picks apart the argument put forward by UKIP that Britain’s main interest should be to leave the European Union.
On 9 December, I went to a talk organised by the Current Affairs Society. This time, they succeeded in inviting UK Independence Party (UKIP) members to give a talk. The thought of UKIP giving a talk at a university which defines itself as ‘European’ was ironic to say the least.
UKIP is a fast-growing political party led by the charismatic Nigel Farage, focusing mostly on a British withdrawal from the EU, restricting immigration and a return to the ‘good old days’ as they might be called in Britain. I went to the talk armed with questions on immigration but instead the UKIP councillors, unsurprisingly, mainly focused on the EU-UK relationship.
What I found most questionable about UKIP’s argument is that they want Britain to leave the EU and rid it of its political influence but would rather not give up the economic benefits of trade with the European bloc. I think this is hypocritical. It is always easy to complain and moan rather than to try and effect change from within. Even more hypocritical is that Farage, earning himself some pretty hefty sums working in the European Parliament, is now the EU’s public enemy number one.
Regarding the immigration issue, I understand there need to be some changes to address so-called ‘benefit tourism’, yet in my opinion, this has nothing to do with immigration, but rather a needed reform of the British welfare system. According to new rules starting from 2014, EU nationals will have to wait three months before claiming benefits, and then will only be able to claim for six months following that. After that, they must prove they have a realistic chance of employment. London Mayor Boris Johnson recently argued that the Government should go much further and move the waiting period to up to 12 months.
These are reasonable decisions that need to be made in order to secure jobs for young Brits but that is not something UKIP were arguing. The talk focused only on EU-bashing and all the liberal values that the many multinational corporations and NGOs are trying to promote. To me, it all seemed like the desperate cry of a former imperialist power. We live in a different time and different world. I realise the EU is not faultless but what UKIP suggests is just wrong. The whole idea of the European integration is something many people overseas would die for. We can travel and work anywhere in Europe – without the EU, I wouldn’t be able to apply for a student loan or even study here.
The problem is, some find UKIP’s arguments rather appealing. There is nothing wrong about that, but maybe Britain should stop idealising its brutal past and focus on the future in the name of cooperation and mutuality the EU offers.