UK Politics

Barroso says UKIP could win European elections in UK

Jose Manuel Barroso gives his 2013 state of the union speech
Image caption Jose Manuel Barroso warned against re-opening European divisions

The European Commission president has predicted that UKIP - which wants Britain out of the EU - may win next year's European elections in the UK.

Speaking in a European Parliament debate, Jose Manuel Barroso accused the Conservatives of turning Eurosceptic for electoral advantage.

And he said that when it "comes to being against Europe people prefer the original to the copy".

UKIP came second in the 2009 European elections behind the Conservatives.

The party's leader Nigel Farage has promised to cause a "political earthquake" at next year's polls after a strong showing in local elections.

David Cameron wants the UK to renegotiate the UK's relations with the European Union and then hold an in/out referendum on Britain's membership in 2017.

'A bit rich'

The prime minister's promise of a referendum, announced earlier this year, was seen as a response to the rise in support for UKIP.

But the Conservative leader's strategy has angered senior EU officials including Mr Barroso, who accused Conservative leader in the European Parliament, Martin Callanan, of not being a genuine Eurosceptic.

He told the MEP: "Your party and your group are looking like the UKIP and the Eurosceptic European group.

"And I start to have some doubts that you are going to be elected yourself in Britain, if it is not UKIP that is going to be the first force in the British elections.

"Because when it comes to being against Europe, the people prefer, between the original and the copy, they prefer the original.

"That is probably why they are going to vote more for Mr Farage than for Mr Callanan. And this I don't say with any kind of satisfaction, because even if we have some differences, we have worked in many areas very constructively with Conservatives, the British conservatives and the Conservative group."

His comments came after Mr Callanan used a parliamentary debate to accuse the commission of representing the "vested interests of the European District in Brussels not the people of Europe".

In response to Mr Barroso's comments, Mr Callanan said it was "a bit rich for the unelected head of the European Commission to give electoral advice… but I suppose that's typical of him".

'Wafer thin'

But Nigel Farage said: "Mr Barroso is right to say that the only real EU debate is whether the UK leaves or stays in the EU, and not the unrealistic promises by David Cameron."

In his state of the union address, in Strasbourg, Mr Barroso said the EU must not ease off on reform as growth edges back to the economy.

And he warned that rolling back the powers of the 28 nation bloc could take Europe back to the divisions that created World War I and "the trenches".

Downing Street reacted to Mr Barroso's claims by saying the prime minister believed Europe needed to fundamentally change.

The prime minister's official spokesman said support for the EU in Britain was "wafer thin".

"The case that the prime minister has been making is forward looking, not one that looks to the past," added the spokesman.

Mr Farage also dismissed Mr Barroso's claims, saying: "Those of us who believe in national democracy do not want to take us back to the Western Front or 1914. Those of us who believe in national democracy will say to you that it is a healthy assertion of identity."

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