Northern Ireland

UKIP leader Nigel Farage says England needs more powers

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Media captionNigel Farage spoke to BBC News NI Political Reporter Stephen Walker

The United Kingdom could break up if people in England are not given greater powers, UKIP leader Nigel Farage has warned.

Nigel Farage made the comments as UKIP activists prepare to gather for their annual conference in Doncaster.

His remarks come after the Scottish referendum vote and as politicians continue to debate how devolution might change across the UK.

He said it was imperative the wishes of people in England were addressed.

In an interview for BBC Northern Ireland, Mr Farage said: "I'll tell you something - if we don't give the English a fair voice, there won't be a union because England will break away.

"England will say 'enough is enough is enough'."

'Constitutional convention'

He added: "To save the union, we've got to have devolution that works for everybody."

Mr Farage also confirmed that he had written to Scottish MPs and asked them not to participate in debates in the House of Commons.

The issue is seen by some as a parliamentary anomaly and has become known as the 'West Lothian Question', where Scottish MPs are allowed to discuss matters that relate only to England.

Mr Farage also said he wanted Northern Ireland's MPs to refrain from taking part in debates on English-only matters.

"That isn't right, that isn't fair - we need a completely new constitutional settlement," he said.

"I don't believe that can be put together in the course of a few weeks in a private committee room. I want us to have a UK constitutional convention to thrash it out."

Questioned on whether he was arguing for a two-tier parliament the UKIP leader replied: "Yes that's right. There is an alternative and that is we set up a separate English assembly, and have another complete layer of 500 extra politicians. I don't believe there's any demand for that."

The Scottish referendum debate has also put the focus on the 'Barnett Formula' which is the way monies are allocated from London to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. The independence debate in Scotland has prompted some politicians to call for a review of the formula that was designed in the 1970s by Labour minister Joel Barnett.

'On the table'

Mr Farage is adamant that change is necessary.

"The Barnett formula itself has to go anyway, even Joel Barnett who invented it admits that," he said.

"We have to look at this differently. Everything must be on the table - our constitutional arrangements, our funding arrangements must be on the table."

However, the UKIP politician accepted that Northern Ireland may have to be approached differently.

"I have a lot more sympathy for the situation in Northern Ireland. You know, we're just a few years after a horrendous political and social situation, and I think the British government and parliament will fully accept its responsibilities here," he said.

Mr Farage rejected the suggestion that his ideas were actually anti-unionist.

"This is not about breaking up the UK - it's about actually saying, 'it's about time England got a fair deal from this', because for the last 18 years, we've not had a voice."

The two-day UKIP conference in Doncaster begins on Friday.

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