Sunday 17 December 2017

Brexit promises were 'mildly irresponsible', admits Nigel Farage

Nigel Farage, United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) member and MEP talks with European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans ahead of a debate on The State of the European Union at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, September 14, 2016 Picture: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Nigel Farage, United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) member and MEP talks with European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans ahead of a debate on The State of the European Union at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, September 14, 2016 Picture: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

Arj Singh

Some of the pre-Brexit referendum pledges made by Leave campaigners were "mildly irresponsible", Nigel Farage has admitted.

Brexiteers who spearheaded the campaign to persuade the British people to leave the EU have been heavily scrutinised after a number of pledges appear to have been backtracked, including a Vote Leave campaign poster that promised to spend £350m of EU funding a week on the NHS and plans to create a points-based immigration system.

When challenged over the failed promises, the former Ukip leader and prominent Brexit campaigner said some pledges were "mildly irresponsible", adding "there were lots of promises - lots of idea get discussed at any election".

The admission comes after the co-chair of the official campaign to leave the EU, said the pledge regarding NHS funding was only an "example" of how such funds could be allocated.

Gisela Stuart downplayed the policy, which was printed on the side of a giant red bus during the campaign, telling the BBC Daily Politics programme on Monday: "No, the NHS was the example of that if you're spending that amounts of money and you don't have control of what to do with it, I would spend it on the NHS."

Mr Farage's recent comments echo those he made on the morning of the EU referendum result when he dismissed the pledge as a "mistake".

Although not affiliated with Vote Leave, Mr Farage did not speak out against the figure during the campaign, but told broadcasters hours after the votes were counted: "No I can't [guarantee spending £350m on the NHS], and I would never have made that claim. That was one of the mistakes that I think the Leave campaign made."

Earlier, Mr Farage launched a scathing attack on the EU, saying after EC President's Jean-Claude Juncker's State of the Union speech that there had been a "declaration of war" on Brexit negotiations.

A weary-eyed Mr Juncker was seen holding his head in his hands as Mr Farage accused the European Parliament of already appointing its "divorce lawyers" by selecting Guy Verhofstadt as its chief Brexit negotiator.

Mr Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister and leader of the liberal MEPs, has been unpopular with Brexiteers and previously stressed he would not agree to a Brexit deal that allowed Britain full access to the single market without retaining the free movement of people.

Following Mr Juncker's call for Brexit talks to begin "as soon as possible", Mr Farage said: "In terms of Brexit, you're probably right to be slightly critical of the British government, who ought to get on with it.

"But the EU is getting on with it and you've already appointed your divorce lawyers. On behalf of the European Parliament, we've got Guy Verhofstadt. He's the man who is going to be negotiating Brexit.

"If you were to think of this building [the EU Parliament] as a temple, well, Mr Verhofstadt is the high priest. A fanatic. In fact, there is only really one nationalist in this room and it's you [Verhofstadt] because you want flags, anthems, armies . . . you are an EU nationalist.

"I frankly think that this appointment amounts to pretty much a declaration of war on any sensible negotiation process."

Irish Independent

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