Ukip would prop up Tories in return for EU referendum before Christmas

Nigel Farage says party could support Conservatives on key votes if he got referendum in 2015 and strict terms for the debate

Ukip would demand an EU referendum before Christmas as the price for doing a deal with the Conservatives to support their spending plans, Nigel Farage has said.

The Ukip leader has previously made it clear he would consider doing a pact with any party that would offer an early referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

He could hope to do such a deal only with a Conservative minority government: Labour is holding out against an EU referendum unless there is a transfer of powers to Brussels.

George Osborne, the chancellor, said on Sunday morning the idea of a deal with Ukip was “total nonsense” and the Conservatives were fighting for a majority. However, he also repeatedly refused to rule out a deal completely.

“Even engaging with Nigel Farage is giving him credibility where there is none … I don’t think he is a credible participant in this election because the only thing he does is open the door to Ed Miliband,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. “Even on his own boasts he is only likely to win a small handful [of seats].”

Ukip has talked up the possibility of forming a pact, but on current projections it is only expected to get between two and six seats. Farage thinks the party will be in double digits and has pointed out that its prospects are consistently underestimated.

Farage has repeatedly ruled out joining any coalition and would only be up for a confidence-and-supply arrangement whereby he gets what he wants on the EU in return for supporting the Conservatives on key votes.

In the Sunday Telegraph, he set out the terms for such a deal, declaring an EU referendum would have to be held this year as he said it would only take a few weeks to organise.

He would want to bar EU citizens without a British passport from voting in it and to agree the wording of the question, campaign spending limits and monitoring of media coverage.

“I would look to do a deal where we would back key votes for them [the Tories] – such as the budget – but in return for very specific criteria on an EU referendum,” he said.

“The terms of my deal with the Tories would be very precise and simple. I want a full and fair referendum to be held in 2015 to allow Britons to vote on being in or out of the European Union. There would be no wiggle room for ‘renegotiation’ somewhere down the line.

“The EU is facing an existential crisis and, given that it only takes a few weeks to launch and organise a referendum, it should be held in 2015.

“It is my strong belief that the 4 million EU citizens living in the UK without British passports should not be allowed to do so [vote]. And yes, that includes my German wife. They are eligible to vote in European elections, but they should not have the right to decide on Britain’s future in the EU. It may be that that would require us to do battle with the European court of justice – but so be it.”

Farage said he could work with Michael Gove, the Conservative chief whip, although “a vast number of [Tories] hate us and I dislike them”.

David Cameron has pledged an EU referendum before the end of 2017 if he wins power, after he has had the chance to renegotiate with Brussels. Some sections of the Conservative party want an earlier date and the prime minister has not ruled this out.

Labour said Farage’s comments showed he was more Tory than the Tories. Jon Trickett, the shadow minister without portfolio, said: “Having given up any pretence that he stands up for working people, Nigel Farage is now preparing to work with David Cameron after the election.

“The Tories and Ukip would deliver increased NHS privatisation and yet more tax breaks for millionaires. A vote for Ukip is a vote for the Tories and David Cameron.

“Only Labour has a better plan for a better future which would raise living standards for all.”


Rowena Mason Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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