Le 23 janvier 2013, le premier ministre britannique David Cameron a fait un discours au sujet d’un possible départ du Royaume Uni de l’Union Européenne. Il propose d’organiser un référendum en 2017 si l’Union Européenne n’est pas réformée et s’il est réélu en 2015, référendum dans lequel les Britanniques pourront donner leur avis sur la question. Ce revirement du premier ministre donne un nouveau pouvoir au parti UKIP, et à son leader Nigel Farage, qui prône la sortie du Royaume Uni de l’Union Européenne. Qu’en est-il de la réaction de Nigel Farage à ce discours du premier ministre ?
Nigel Farage is the leader of the UKIP, but he is also paradoxically both a Member of the European Parliament and of the Eurosceptic Europe for Freedom and Democracy group. He is strongly opposed to the membership of the UK in the UE and even opposes the common market as he says it is not an opportunity for the country. Above all he thinks the EU takes power away from the British Parliament – “you cannot have your own immigration policy and be a member of the European Union, you cannot be a self-governing democracy and be a member of the European Union”.
So Cameron’s speech is a big victory for him and his party, because the question of Britain leaving the EU is now openly discussed. Farage, who left the Conservative Party in 1992 after the “yes” to Maastricht Treaty, is no longer regarded as an extremist. He is now listened to and his voice will be heard in the national debate. However, the fact that Cameron proposed to organize the referendum after the next general elections implies that the debate will only take place during the next campaign. According to Nigel Farage, Cameron, who is politically weak, used the idea of the referendum as a form of political manipulation. Indeed, he will organize it if he is reelected – so he is already running for the next general elections -, and if the negotiations he will start with other European members do not succeed. About this last point, Farage is rather sceptical, because other European members do not want Great Britain to have an “à la carte” Europe. Moreover, if the referendum takes place only in 2017, Great Britain will lose a lot of money because of the European contributions – aids to Bulgaria and to Romania are the examples he gave. Cameron avoids the immediacy of the problem because that would put him at risk of being unpopular just before the next elections.
Farage has to convince Britons that the EU does not bring anything to the country anymore, that the Common Market is not useful, and that it is dangerous for the economy and for Britain’s freedom. These arguments will be opposed to those of the PM, who will have to convince the electorate of the benefits of the EU. The campaign is likely to remind the voters of the 1970s, when Britons voted to join the Union.
According to Nigel Farage, Cameron had to make this speech, because of the rise of Eurosceptism among Britons. However, he thought the speech was still pro-European, but with an anti-European rhetoric, because Cameron already began to defend his position (pro-European) even as he promised a referendum.
For Farage, the speech is on the one hand a victory for UKIP because it questions Britain’s relationship with the EU but it also puts UKIP’s ideas in the forefront, but on the other hand it is a political manipulation by Cameron to make him politically stronger.