WINTERTHUR Switzerland (Reuters) - The leader of Britain’s anti-EU party UKIP on Saturday predicted that divisions between rich and poor would spell doom for the single currency and the dream of a United States of Europe.
Nigel Farage, head of the United Kingdom Independence Party, told a packed political meeting to rapturous applause:
“I live in a Europe that is divided North to South by the euro, with the North doing reasonably OK and the South being forced into poverty.
“It is now inevitable that this ‘United States of Europe’ will not be completed; it is now inevitable that countries will leave the euro; it is now inevitable that countries will leave the union.”
Farage was in Switzerland to give a speech called “The Doomed Euro” to members of Action for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland (AUNS), an ally of the SVP - Switzerland’s biggest political party - which has made opposition to European Union membership a linchpin of its policies.
Earlier this year, Swiss voters approved a proposal by the SVP to reintroduce quotas on immigrants from the European Union. The move has put at risk Switzerland’s bilateral accords with the bloc, since free movement of labor is a key element of the package.
Farage, whose party has siphoned off voters from the Conservatives by attacking European bureaucracy and immigration from Eastern Europe, said Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge to curb intra-EU immigration was a “gross deception”.
He said the same applied to a pre-election plan announced by Cameron on Friday to quit the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) unless it agrees that Britain’s parliament has the final say over its rulings.
“The only way you can say the ECHR can’t override is by leaving the EU,” Farage told Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting.
The European Court of Human Rights is not part of the structure of the 28-member European Union. It is an institution of the 47-member Council of Europe, including Russia and Turkey.
Straining to pacify the Eurosceptic wing of his own party, Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain’s EU ties if re-elected, before holding an EU membership referendum in 2017. Last week, he said would seek to alter the bloc’s freedom of movement rules.
UKIP wants an immediate British withdrawal from the EU and an end to what it calls an “open door” immigration policy. It has no seats in the British parliament but holds 24 of Britain’s 73 seats in the European Parliament.
The rise of Farage’s anti-EU party has unsettled Conservative lawmakers, who are concerned that UKIP could split the center-right vote at next year’s national election.
“I think UK politics is in a greater state of flux than it has been at any stage in my lifetime,” Farage said.
UKIP argues that Britain would be more democratic and prosperous outside the European Union.
Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Stephen Powell