UKIP's Farage says anti-EU factions united before vote

25th September 2015, Comments 0 comments

The leader of the UK Independence Party sought to present a united front among anti-EU factions before a referendum on Britain leaving the bloc as he addressed the party conference Friday.

Nigel Farage sought to bring together the different factions campaigning to leave the European Union in a vote to be held by the end of 2017, saying they were "on course to win".

He also stressed the importance of a positive message to counter Prime Minister David Cameron's argument that Britain should stay in the EU as long as it can secure a string of reforms on issues like welfare payments to EU nationals.

"We are together, we are united and I believe that the tide has turned," Farage told the UKIP conference, held at a racecourse in Doncaster, northern England.

"I think something is changing out there and I think we're on course to win the most historic and important political victory in any of our lifetimes."

In a nod to his campaign theme, Farage walked on stage to the band Europe's 1986 pop hit "The Final Countdown".

Before his speech, he predicted that Britain had a 50/50 chance of leaving the EU in the referendum, which some observers predict will be held in September next year, although the date has not been officially confirmed.

- 'Own two feet' -

Until recently, opinion polls suggested that those against a so-called "Brexit" were in the majority, but one poll earlier this month put the anti-EU camp ahead.

According to the poll by Survation on behalf of the right-wing Mail on Sunday newspaper, 43 percent said they would vote to leave the EU, compared to 40 percent who would vote against, with 17 undecided.

UKIP has undergone a turbulent period since May's general election in which they lost one of their two House of Commons seats, failing to achieve a hoped-for breakthrough.

Farage himself quit as leader after failing to win a seat himself but then quickly returned to the post, prompting weeks of infighting.

Now the pub-loving politician is seeking to unite the string of separate factions who want Britain to leave the EU -- including one led by millionaire businessman and UKIP donor Arron Banks -- under a new group called "Leave.EU".

It is not clear who will lead the anti-EU campaign.

Farage is seen by some as too divisive and has described himself as a "Marmite" politician, after the popular yeast-based spread, which people tend either to love or to loathe.

He added that the anti-EU camp needed to argue that Britain was "good enough to stand on our own two feet" and build free trade and cooperation with Europe outside the EU.

But in an indication of the arguments he is likely to deploy on the campaign trail, he added: "The risk of voting to remain in this union is far greater than the risk of voting to take control of our borders and our lives."

© 2015 AFP

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