UK Politics

David Cameron's anger at Barroso's UKIP claim

Jose Manuel Barroso and David Cameron at the G8 summit in St Petersburg
Image caption The two men occasionally have "robust exchanges", Mr Cameron said

David Cameron has hit back at the president of the European Commission after Jose Manuel Barroso accused the Conservatives of copying UKIP.

Mr Barroso criticised the PM's EU policy in the European Parliament on Wednesday, suggesting UKIP may outpoll them in the 2014 Euro elections.

The Conservative leader said he was "angry" at the remarks and accused Mr Barroso of "lecturing" his party.

Mr Cameron's pledge of a EU referendum in 2017 has heightened tensions.

Many senior Conservatives have said the UK's future membership the EU cannot be taken for granted and will depend on a successful renegotiation of the existing terms of membership, including the return of certain powers from Brussels, prior to a public vote.

Mr Cameron has promised an in/out referendum after he has negotiated the return of some powers - so far unspecified - from Brussels.

'Return to trenches'

In his state of the union speech on Thursday, Mr Barroso suggested those seeking to reverse ever-closer integration in the EU risked returning the continent to "the pre-integrated Europe of the divisions, the war, the trenches".

In exchanges following the annual address, Mr Barroso accused the Conservatives of turning Eurosceptic for electoral advantage and suggested that when it "comes to being against Europe people prefer the original to the copy".

Directing his remarks towards the head of the Conservative group of MEPs, Martin Callanan, Mr Barroso suggested that UKIP could become the "first force" in next year's elections - a stated goal of the anti-EU party.

Asked about the remarks, the prime minister told LBC Radio he was used to getting advice and he had a "good relationship" with Mr Barroso.

But he added: "I mean, the Barroso thing did annoy me, because frankly, you know, his job is to serve the members of the European Union, and, you know, the British Conservatives in the European Parliament are an important party, they are the governing party of the United Kingdom, and he should be respecting their views rather than trying to lecture them.

"They have got an important contribution to make and I think he got it wrong...We have a good relationship, I get on with him, we sometimes have some pretty robust exchanges, and I suspect this will probably be one of them."

UKIP leader Nigel Farage told the BBC on Thursday that the Conservative leader was "one of the big supporters of the European project" and the Commission president's "frustration" with him was mild compared to his fear of those advocating the break-up of the EU.

"His real concern is that, right across Europe, the kind of arguments we have used in the chamber are gaining in support...It is not reform he is afraid of. What he is afraid of is people leaving the union."

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