How succesful do you feel you've been since 1999, then, in terms of implementing your ideas and projects?
My first few years were quiet years, quiet in that you arrive here, three of you, you haven't got any staff, you haven't got any secretaries, any allies, you don't know where the front door is! Talk about first day of school - I've never felt so lost in my life. So, I think that if you arrive cold into any institution, it's better to find your feet before you start firing off and sounding off.
But I wouldn’t say that our achievements since 1999 to 2004 within the structure were considerable to the outside world. The second term something changed; personally, I found my feet. I latched on very quickly in 2004 to the whole issue of the business of the Commission. I think my speech denouncing Commissioner Barrot and his previous difficulties with the French authorities was in a way an important point and something that had great resonance with both the British public and for the rest of Europe too. Because we'd been told that here was a new Commission, that all the sins of the past had been forgotten and cleared up, but it was pretty clear that what we got was a continuation of the same kind of thing. People who had become such a serious embarrassment in domestic politics, the only place you could take them was Brussels. So that was the first thing that we did and in the end I wasn't arrested and the full weight of the French state wasn't brought against me, as promised by Barrot on French television.
Were you perhaps a little bit disappointed by that?
Well, I must say that a little bit of martyrdom isn't always a bad thing. Perhaps it's linked in to, say, the whole question of Commission President Barroso's recent holiday with a family who are massive contractors with European companies, and that saw fit not to declare that? I have no objection going on luxury yachts around the Mediterranean, it seems like a good idea to me, but to try and pretend that you can go and do that and that's purely in the box marked 'private' and doesn’t bear any relationship to what's going on in public I think was a big mistake on his part and I think that to be able to get 10% of the Parliament to support my motion of 'No Confidence', despite the massive pressures on people to withdraw, was again an important thing to have done. And it did make people question, because the Commission is the civil service, the government! They’re not elected people, but it's the Commission that makes law and are the guardians of the Treaties. And the sweetest thing of all was that we were able to have that motion of confidence debate in plenary just four days before the French Referendum. I like to think that we made a bit of a difference there.
Is your taking governments or the Commission to account actually helping to improve the system's transparency?
Well, if they ever listened to what I say, then I'd be in trouble, wouldn't I? If they listened to UKIP criticism and said yep, you're absolutely right Nigel, we’re going to do everything you want and change the whole thing, then I might be in some trouble, but it is the sheer impossibility of changing the system that's the worst of it. But the most important point for me is that since the days of Monnet...the fact that has been enshrined and they are determined not to change is that it is the Commission and you have a system in which laws are made or unmade by people beyond the democratic process. It doesn’t really matter what Nigel Farage or anybody else says, it isn't going to get better and that's why the British argument that we hear all the time, ie that we're going to reform it, change it, make it better, well I think that the structure is so fundamentally wrong that I don't want the European Union as it is. It isn't going to get better and I would much rather have a completely fresh start and to have something based on co-operation and trade. But not on law, not on the acquis - I'm not anti-European, that's a tag and a label that I won't accept, because I do want trade and I do want co-operation and I do want us to be good next-door neighbours, and I do accept that there are things that you can do across borders that you can't achieve as a nation alone. I favour an intergovernmental approach to these issues and not the Monnet/Schumann approach.
Tying into that, I suppose I'm struck that you appear to be a moderate gentleman who stands to a point of principle, so I think my problem is the way that UKIP chooses to represent itself to the population at large: on your website recently, a headline ran saying 'Bonkers new EU law hits UK forces'. Now, I'm not blaming you, but what I'm saying is that sort of approach and the fact that it's put on the UKIP website seems representative. My question is, doesn't it seem to play into 'banana-straightening' headlines in The Sun, and if it does, doesn't this run counter to the idea of a Eurosceptic intelligentsia?
If you want me to give you a copy of the Curvature of Cucumbers Directive before you leave today, I will. It's not a myth, it's real and that's why in Tesco's now, you almost always get halved cucumbers - they had to cut them in half to conform with the directive. Most of your point I agree with, but the one thing that we don't do as a party is trivialise, we don't get involved in those tardy, nitty-gritty stories, but what we do do in the case of such stories is put it on our website and quite rightly so, as it was an important story. We received a phone call from a bloke in his mid-30s, who for 14 years has served the territorial army at the weekend and who during the week is a postman and who been given an ultimatum by the post office, that he either stops his territorial-army activities or gives up his job with the post office, because of the Working Time Directive.
That is not trivial, that is a big serious story, and it's not just Europe's fault, incidentally, it's also the UK government's fault, because the government could have applied for an exemption from this and just because of bad government and bad thinking, didn't do so. This is the lethal combination, European law and appalling British interpretation.
I'm not calling you racist, but UKIP's stance must surely invite accusations of xenophobia?
You know, we have had a tide of political correctness in the UK over the past 30 or 40 years that says that if you oppose immigration you're racist...I mean this is what we've been told to believe and because we've actually stood up from outside the political classes and challenged this and said 'to hell with that, we think it's a perfectly reasonable and sensible thing to discuss'. We may be in the minority, or we may be in the majority, but until we actually debate these things, we don’t know. So it's not surprising that we get abuse from the very establishment that has tried to stifle debate on these issues.
You mentioned immigration - it's one of the areas in which the Commission has been more and more active recently, such as putting the FRONTEX agency in place, having border police-controls and trying to control boat people in the Mediterranean. Do you not see these initiatives as helping to preserve British territorial borders?
Listen, we are an island, which gives us huge advantages in terms of policing our borders - yes, of course you can smuggle drugs into a small cove in Cornwall but when you're a port and you're operating externally, your ports of entry are very limited so it gives you a massive advantage in terms of being able to control who comes with the desire to work and those who intend to come and live as an immigrant. I think that the two are completely different things, or should be completely different things. So, I don't need the rally in Brussels or some frontier force to help me feel more secure. I feel less secure because we abolished embarkation controls in 1994, I feel less secure because we now, irresponsibly, have an open door to the whole of eastern Europe. And we're saying that as many millions of you that want to come can: I opposed that policy, predicting that if you have free movement of people with vastly differing GDPs, it would lead to a vastly differing flow. I said it the time, and I'll say it again, that this is not good for us and it has not been good for the countries either. You can't totally restrict the movement of people but nor should you be sending a message that it's open season, so I have no problem with the Brits having a work-permit system with Poland or Lithuania based on demand, but the way that we're doing it is wrong. But of course, we can’t discuss it - Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives agree, so therefore let's have no debate and anyone like Nigel who pops his head up, let's just slag him off.
And the EU institutions that are in place that have helped to prevent wars?
I think that's rubbish, what about NATO, what about the nuclear deterrent? What about all those things?
Of course, they've played their part but it seems to me that Churchill's 'jaw-jaw better than war-war' approach, as exemplified by the Commission...
Who's arguing against that? Listen, there's nobody more pro-NATO than me and nobody more for the concept, the original concept of the Council of Europe, than me. I totally believe in intergovernmental co-operation, totally believe that jaw-jaw is better than war-war. I understand and 100% support all the statements that you've made, but I do not see the European Commission as being the embodiment of that.
You were mentioning that a lot of MEPs in UKIP have a business background, the internal market which the Commission has being championing for more than 20 years has aided, to some extent, the economic growth that you’ve enjoyed in Britain. So, would you have prefered that this hadn’t happened and that further barriers had been erected?
10% of the United Kingdom's economy is engaged in the export of goods to Europe. And yet we have a rule book under the single market that applies to 100% of our economy. We are binding ourselves in knots for the other 10% of our economy which is exports to the rest of the world and the 80% of our economy which is me running a local corner shop and not being able to sell bananas to a little old lady because it's now a criminal offence. In the 21st Century, for a country like Britain in a global economy that speaks English and for now has the most dynamic financial-services sector in the world is absolutely ridiculous. The single market is holding us back and not letting us move forward. When I first started making these arguments back in 1999, I was laughed at and I remember going to a whole series of boardroom lunches, and people said to me 'You know Nigel, we have some sympathy with you on the democracy point but you're completely wrong, the single market is going to be wonderful, it's going to lower barriers, give us a bigger domestic market place'. Now, in October-November 2006 there was a significant poll undertaken which showed that 62% of city practitioners said that the costs and burdens of regulations brought about by the single market now outweigh any possible benefits of free access.
Sometimes it's seen as being the other way around, that increasingly the EU is the global standard-setter for many products, so it's better to be part of this decision-making process than to be outside it.
I understand that argument, and I can see that there's 10% of the UK economy that would be attracted in some way, but you have to always balance that against the cost of regulation.
What about the general argument that if standards are shared by the majority, it's beneficial for free trade?
Well that of course is a perfectly intelligent argument, but do we need a European Commission, a European Parliament and a European Court, all of those things, to have common standards?
Well you were making the point about democracy, if you want to influence the decision making process then surely you need democratic institutions to do it?
Well, within a European timezone, that may be right, but I have to weigh against that the European model, which is not one in which the three of us sit down as heads of state or as trade ministers and agree common standards. The single market model, the European model, is that while we do agree those things, we get along with it all the bureaucratic trappings that seek to create an isotopic market across Europe, a totally level playing field and we do that using legislation to homogenise and harmonise, but actually by doing that we've now created something that is seriously lacking in competition. I would even challenge your assertion that the EU has been good for economies - I think that in the British case, there are some very serious arguments that say that overnight, just by reducing some of the more crazy directives, we could actually up our GDP quickly and substantially.
Would you say that the EU is actually not the right scale, that we need some a 'globalised' scale?
Well there are those that believe that the EU is much too small-scale and that there should be one world government and one world currency, but, as it happens, I am not one of them!
Ultimately, Britain's future in the EU won't be decided by the emotive issues of self-government and democracy, important though they are. Britain's future in the EU will be determined by the international business community who will ask is Europe good or bad for business? And I don't think that the EU is the right model through which we can deal with globalisation. Far from representing free trade, the bloc is actually becoming rather protectionist. I think that the truth is actually rather wide of Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson's efforts to pretend that he wants a solution to the Doha Round – I think that because of agricultural protection, and all the rest of it that the EU has been a bigger barrier than the US.
So, who is the free-trade champion these days? I mean, isn't the US an increasingly large barrier too?
I'll tell you who it's going to be – an independent Britain! With its own seat at the World Trade Organization and its unique relationship with a third of the world's population, the Commonwealth. And that's an interesting point - when there was a big Commonwealth meeting in 2005, the one thing they were all screaming for was increased access to our markets, for our agricultural goods. And Blair could not say that he would try for this, he was only able to say, 'Well, I'll go and see Peter...'
I do think that the failure of the Doha Round leads inevitably to bilateralism, and for Britain not to have the ability to make bilateral deals because we’re bound by common commercial policy doesn't make sense, and it's the main reason that many British businesses are saying "The EU's not helping us"!
But how can Britain weigh in on its own? I mean, it only represents 60-65 million people, and the EU has around 480m citizens?
Well, don't you think that that counts for a lot when you try to strike bilateral deals?
Bigger is not always better: if it's big, but so large and cumbersome because of all the problems that exist within it and it doesn’t have a clear policy, than clearly it's not better to be big. And I mean in terms of trade deals, take Switzerland, with its unique series of trade deals – Switzerland has to recognise the EU, it has to recognise the US – I mean, there's a huge degree of interdependence across the global economy. Listen, I'm not living in the 1890s. I come from the City of London, with a background in financial companies - my own view is that the pace of globalisation is going to stun people and to be able to compete with that you have to be adaptable and flexible, which an EU-27 is not.
The draft paper that the Commission announced on 8 February 2007 concerns environmental crime - I guess you're opposed to that?
And if you are, I mean, it's an international effort to counter pollution, how can that be perceived as a bad thing? It is apparently only the second time in the EU's legal history that they've removed sovereign rights. Why are you opposed to such a move?
That's a cleverly phrased question - I mean, 'this is a force for good, so therefore anyone who opposes it is bad'. That's what the Communists did, it's exactly like Soviet Russia! Specifically, 'this is clearly good for the people, we know what’s best for the people and therefore we have to make these decisions'. It's a sort of old-fashioned, paternalistic, arrogant and in its own way, very dangerous way of proceeding. So, of course they've done it, they do it with energy, with the environment, etc, they've chosen something that sounds soft and cuddly, and they use it as a way of gaining more power.
Surely the point about law is not whether any one individual law is a good law or a bad law, I mean we could even look at all the European Directives and we might even find some that I like! Not everything that comes from here is the spawn of the Devil...
That sounds like a good headline...
It's not whether each law individually is sensible, but you have to ask yourself, by what mechanism has that law been put into place? And if perchance, it's a bad law, and backfires and doesn't work, by what mechanism can it be removed? And if you remove that law-making ability, if you take away the power of the individual at the ballot box to change the people in charge who can promise to get rid of it or who can promise to improve it, than I would argue that's bad law. Because if you take law and if you take law-making and you put it totally outside of the framework of democracy, of accountability to the people, you’re doing something that is potentially very dangerous.
Going back to the big picture, everyone agrees that the EU is not democratic enough, that the Commission is not fully accountable, it's not directly elected. Everybody agrees with that and actually there was a Convention in place and efforts towards a Constitution that was somewhat improving the situation...
Well at least it was going in this direction, so tell us why you think this wasn't a good idea?
Wonderful spin, wonderful! I mean, 'Nigel, you should support the Constitution – it gives you the right to leave, and it approves accountability!' And what exactly does it do? The Constitution that is there and set in stone, enshrines the Monet principle that says that it's the European Commission that makes law. Yes, of course, it allows for a third of the member states to say they're not very happy with this and, yes, the Commission increasingly works hand-in-hand to help draft legislation, but none of it gets away from the basic principle that it's the bureaucracy and the professional classes who effectively are the government and lawmakers within this system.
A radical Constitution, one that would be harder to argue against, would be one that gave the European Parliament the power and made it clear that the government of Europe was drawn up from the members of the European Parliament.
I thought before this interview that you were going to be another Richard Littlejohn - I'll give you the compliment that you're not...
Well it is terribly easy to think that, because such people believe in nation states and immigration control and are extremely reactionary, completely refusing to hear another point of view - they're just bigots. I mean, it's very easy to pigeonhole people like that and I think that's been the fascination with the UKIP phenomenon. That over the years, there have been dozens of political movements that have sprung up all over Europe, who've covered it from that point of view and they've all completely floundered but I think with UKIP is that we have set something up that is genuinely non-sectarian and non-racist. That's important, because it gives us the potential to draw in people from a wider spectrum. And that we base things on real fundamental principles and that we’re making arguments that aren't just appropriate to people aged 85 who believe in their country because of their memory of the war, but are actually appropriate to people of 25 because we're living in a global economy that is changing a damn sight faster than the European Union.
Mr Farage, thank you.