Quark: At what point did you personally become resolved that leaving the European Union was the best path for the UK – after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty or earlier?
NF: Let me be clear – I love Europe, it is a great place. I am married to a European, I’ve worked for European companies and I like European cultures. But I’ve always been wary of the European Project, and pretty early on I began to suspect it had gone far beyond a simple trading deal, which is what my parents’ generation thought we’d signed up for in the first place. The Maastricht Treaty was the final straw for me – it established European citizenship and laid down the agenda for the introduction of a European currency.
Quark: UKIP appear to be winning across quite a few voters from the left-wing – former Labour voters – as well as ex-Conservative supporters. Where does that leave you on the political spectrum?
NF: Well, the first and most important aim of UKIP is to return powers from Brussels to Westminster. National sovereignty is an issue that transcends the traditional left-right dynamic of politics, and so of course we are attracting support from across the political spectrum. Some of our greatest by-election results have been in northern Labour heartlands, which proves we aren’t just taking votes from the Conservative party.
Quark: What is your response to the criticism you receive? It has been said that UKIP is inherently racist, that you are not a party for the modern world and that you simply provide an easy alternative for disaffected voters rather than any serious political intention. How do you react to that?
NF: For years, the ‘old three’ parties have tried to create a narrative that UKIP is somehow extreme or xenophobic – and in the run up to the European Elections they did all they could to perpetuate this image. They found a small minority of our candidates who had said offensive or silly things on social media and got their friends in the media to present them as if they were representative of the views of UKIP as a whole. The fact is, we are a growing party, attracting an unprecedented number of new members and candidates – a very small number of inappropriate people have sadly slipped the net and so we are improving our vetting procedures. But on the whole, the British public have seen through the establishment smear tactics and that’s why they voted for us in such huge numbers, that’s why we came first in these European Elections. The British public know that we are a party that embraces the modern world but has respect for our nation’s traditions, something the modern Conservative party seems to have forgotten.
Quark: In 2010, you received just under 1% of the vote in Scotland, where you hold no seats. UKIP are against Scottish independence. How difficult is it for London-centric parties to carry gravitas in this election, when some polls suggest that their arguments are merely turning more Scots to support Salmond in defiance?
NF: In the European Elections we recently got our first Scottish MEP elected and we got 10.4% of the vote – we think this is [a] foundation we can build on in the future. I believe Britain is better together and I hope that Scotland votes to remain part of the Union – a union that has benefitted us all for centuries. But I believe what Salmond is offering is a form of false independence; ‘freedom’ from being governed by politicians in Westminster but no referendum on Scotland’s membership of the EU. I hope in the near future that Scotland gets the chance to vote to continue to be part of the United Kingdom and also votes for independence from the European Union.
Quark: The deputy prime minister identified one of the 3 key priorities for the EU as action on climate change. In 2008 you were somewhat averse to HRH the Prince of Wales’ calls for the EU to be the engine of action in that respect. Was this more to do with your qualms about strengthening EU bonds or about the position of the monarchy in global politics?
NF: With all due respect to HRH the Prince of Wales, climate change is a complex issue; with ‘true believers’ on both sides. One camp insists it is the major issue affecting mankind and the other says it is not happening at all. We in UKIP would like to see an impartial, neutral Royal Commission established to examine the entire issue of climate change and report back. Then we can formulate policy based on fact, not bias.
Quark: The UKIP manifesto includes a promise to develop more grammar schools and technical colleges. However today’s youth are ever more pressured to achieve the highest grades they can. Do you think that increasing the divide between academia and practical careers will help to alleviate this or simply worsen it?
NF: In recent years, I think the way we have demeaned in Britain the idea of people learning skills and trades is just stupid. UKIP would like to see young people offered more options – from trades, apprenticeships to higher learning with all being treated as equally valid.
Quark: A few weeks ago, you made an appearance on “Have I Got News For You”. How important is it for you, as a leader, to be able to be the focus of mockery and humour?
NF: I have always been able to take a joke, and I cannot stand to think that I could become one of these pofaced political drones we see so often on television. I firmly believe you can be a serious politician but still enjoy a laugh now and again, even if it is at your own expense.
These questions were sent on 12th May, thus accounting for a discrepancy in dates between them and the answers, and were answered 6th/7th June due to Mr Farage’s busy schedule.