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Friday, 25 May, 2001, 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK
United Kingdom Independence Party

The flag-bearer of the anti-European Union movement has actually held three seats in the European Parliament since June 1999.

This makes it the UK's fourth-largest party in Europe.

At the general election, the UKIP is putting up 427 candidates, the fourth largest total.

The United Kingdom Independence Party argues it can boost its understanding of the ills of the EU by being inside it.

The party is opposed to the union because it says it is undemocratic - laws are passed by politicians which no one in Britain has voted for - and expensive.

Ending Britain's "surrender" to the EU would save 20bn a year, it argues.

We paid through the nose in membership fees for a club, the membership rules of which were forever changing

Nigel Farage
The UKIP formed in 1993 and soon after won about 3% of the vote in the 1994 European elections.

But it was hugely overshadowed in the 1997 general elections by the well-financed Referendum Party led by Sir James Goldsmith.

When this was wound up soon after, the UKIP fortunes quickly improved and it scooped 7% of the vote in the 1999 European elections.

'Gravy train'

However, it has been torn by internal divisions.

Party founder Alan Sked quit before the 1999 elections after arguing the party should refuse seats in the "gravy train" of the Strasbourg Parliament.

Shortly after the election - in which the party won and accepted three seats - the national executive lost a no confidence vote.

Leader Michael Holmes resigned, though he remained an MEP.

His replacement Jeffrey Titford, also an MEP, narrowly beat academic Rodney Atkinson who quit, accusing the party of being "infiltrated by extremists".

'Regulation, regulation, regulation'

The UKIP claims not to be 'anti-European'. Yet it does describe itself as the only non-racist, non-sectarian, democratic party to advocate British withdrawal from the EU, as well as the only party contesting the election that will never abolish the pound.

The party says that the increasing numbers of laws coming from Brussels is threatening Britain's independence. The UK retains a national veto over key legislative areas in the Council of Ministers but has agreed to abide by majority decisions in many others.

The UKIP particularly objects to Europe's interference in tax policies and believes that Britain should be ruled by its own elected parliament.

Former Leader, Michael Holmes MEP
Former Leader, Michael Holmes MEP

While opposing the Common Agricultural and Fisheries policies, the party does seek freer trade with EU nations and co-operation over issues of common concern.

Nigel Farage MEP said Britain had joined the EU hoping for a "land of milk and honey".

Instead it got "regulation, more regulation and even more regulation".

"And we paid through the nose in membership fees for a club, the membership rules of which were forever changing."

Other Policies

The UKIP has only devised a few policies as it wants its government to take this responsibility.

Health, Social Security and Pensions: For a health service with decentralised management and better pay for nurses. Restore tax advantages to married couples with children under 18. Unemployed workers with 20 years work experience and single mothers with school-age children to get a basic income instead of benefits. Raise state pension by 5 a week. Increase spending on the elderly.

Education: For selection and streaming and a return to traditional teaching methods. 30,000 new teachers to reduce class sizes to 25 pupils at junior level. Suggests a voucher system so parents can send children to the school of their choice.

Transport and the Environment: Will reduce fuel taxes by 9p per litre and improve public transport. Against the part-privatisation of London Underground. Rejects the 'Climate Change Levy', but will encourage the use of the least polluting vehicles and alternative forms of energy production.

Home Affairs: Promise 25,000 more police officer but oppose proposals for a national police force. Will reduce the number of prisoners with more non-custodial sentences.

Defence: EU withdrawal will see an end to EU defence projects like the Eurofighter and the embryonic EU Army, the Rapid Reaction Force. NATO to be cornerstone of Britain's defence policy.

Liberal Democrat seats targeted

The UKIP is standing around 300 candidates, but says it will concentrate its resources fighting 189 Liberal Democrat and Labour marginals.

Conservative-held marginals are not considered "fertile territory" as the UKIP expects a recovery in the Conservative vote.

In particular the party says it hopes to make a "dramatic impact" on three seats: Torridge and West Devon, and Devon North, both held by the Liberal Democrats, and the Labour seat of Falmouth and Camborne.



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