By Angela Haggerty
A row has broken out between Prime Minister David Cameron and the president of the European Commission, Jose Manual Barroso, after he accused the Conservative party of copying UKIP on EU policy.
Mr Barroso made the comments on Thursday during his state of the union speech at the European Parliament and Mr Cameron retorted on Friday, saying the EU president should respect the views of the governing party of the UK “rather than trying to lecture them”.
During his address to the European Parliament, Mr Barroso took aim at those he believes want to “roll back integration” in Europe. The UK government has pledged that the British public will have the opportunity to vote in a referendum on the country’s relationship with the EU in 2017.
“Let me say this to all those who rejoice in Europe’s difficulties and who want to roll back our integration and go back to isolation – the pre-integrated Europe of the divisions, the war, the trenches, is not what people desire and deserve,” said Mr Barroso.
“The European continent has never in its history known such a long period of peace as since the creation of the European Community. It is our duty to preserve it and deepen it.”
Mr Barroso then made the UKIP comments during an exchange with the head of the Conservative group of MEPs, Martin Callanan, and appeared to express his belief that the British public would offer their votes to UKIP in forthcoming European elections.
“UKIP may finish first in Britain. I have some doubts whether you are going to be elected or if it is not UKIP that will be the first force in British elections. That is probably why they are going to vote for [Nigel] Farage,” he went on, adding: “When it comes to being against Europe, people prefer the original to the copy.”
But speaking to LBC Radio on Friday, Mr Cameron hit back at the EU president – a former Prime Minister of Portugal – and said Mr Barroso had “got it wrong”.
“The Barroso thing did annoy me, because frankly, his job is to serve the members of the European Union, and 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,” said Mr Cameron.
“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 took nearly one in every four votes cast in May’s local elections in England and polls have suggested the party could push in front in the European elections and become the biggest UK party in Europe.
[Newsnet Scotland relies heavily on the generosity of its readers in order to exist. We are grateful for each and every donation and would like to take this opportunity to thank those who have placed their trust in us. We would encourage those who can to please donate in order to ensure we continue to provide an alternative news service that is now enjoyed by over 100,000 people each and every month.]