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Last Updated: Monday, 17 September 2007, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Lib Dems give Farage rough ride
By Brian Wheeler
Political reporter, BBC News, Lib Dem conference

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party
Mr Farage said he would treasure his Lib Dem experience
UKIP leader Nigel Farage was barracked by delegates as he spoke at a fringe meeting at the Lib Dem conference.

Mr Farage was appearing at the event to support Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell's surprise call for a referendum on the UK's EU membership.

But his message that Britain should leave the EU to gain control of its own destiny did not go down well with some members of the pro-European audience.

Mr Farage said he enjoyed the experience - despite the boos.

"I shall treasure my Lib Dem conference pass over some years to come. I never thought that would happen," he told the meeting.

Mr Farage was sharing a platform with fellow MEP Chris Davies, the former leader of the Lib Dem group in Brussels.

'Clear the air'

Mr Davies said he did not believe there should be a referendum on the constitution treaty - as it was simply a "sensible" reform of the European Union and there was "nothing fundamental" about it.

But he did back Sir Menzies' call for a wider poll on the question of whether Britain should remain in the EU.

"I want to clear the air. I am glad that Menzies Campbell has come out with the position he has. Let's clear the air. Let's have a fundamental vote on are or are we out. Clear it off the agenda."

He warned pulling out of the EU - as UKIP wanted - would reduce Britain's influence and relegate it to the sidelines in important negotiations.

He said Mr Farage wanted to "turn us into the eunuch of Europe - he wants castration for Britain".

'Liberating'

Mr Farage hit back, saying: "It is a wonderfully clever inversion of the argument to pretend that it is patriotic to give away the government your own country.

"Surely the most patriotic thing to do is to be master of your own destiny - to have it your way and not be governed by someone else."

He was accused by one member of the audience, civil servant John Vincent, of the Brussels and Europe Party, of wanting Britain to be America's "poodle" - something he strongly denied.

The UKIP leader said Britain should be free to negotiate its own bilateral trade agreements, arguing - to boos from the audience - that it was a "liberating, positive and modern thing to do".

Mr Farage also warned that not giving the people a say on the constitution would fuel the rise of "far right" and "extremist" parties across Europe.

But the UKIP leader got the roughest ride when he said there was very little difference between the three main parties, facing cries of "rubbish" when he said it was not possible to get a "cigarette paper" between the parties on many issues.

But many members of the audience applauded his call for a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU, prompting him to tell delegates "it is not that awful to agree with UKIP occasionally".

This was greeted with cries of "yes, it is" from the audience.

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