Britain will not be able to fundamentally change the European Union despite David Cameron’s renegotiation bid, Nigel Farage has said.
Ukip’s leader warned that “government after government” had pledged to reform the EU but that no fundamental change to the bloc ever came about.
“The problem is reform in Britain means something completely different to reform [in Brussels],” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“We asked for something really tiddly and yet it’s difficult to get that. Imagine if we’d asked for fundamental change?
“We are not going to change this European Union, it is hell-bent on full integration and if we stay members of it we will be dragged in its wake.”
David Cameron is locked in talks in Brussels with other EU leaders and Brussels officials on the first day of an EU summit to decide how to change the terms of membership.
The Prime Minister faces opposition to his changes to in-work benefit rules from east European countries with high levels of emigration.
There are also suspicions about other proposals on the single market that some countries worry could privilege the City of London.
European Council president Donald Tusk said there had been “some progress” on the issues in discussions overnight but that “a lot remains to be done”.
Mr Farage predicted that Mr Cameron would be offered some kind of deal at the summit to help him save face but that it would amount to “scratching around the edges” without “fundamental change” on offer.
What has the EU ever done for us?
What has the EU ever done for us?
1/7 1. It gives you freedom to live, work and retire anywhere in Europe
As a member of the EU, UK citizens benefit from freedom of movement across the continent. Considered one of the so-called four pillars of the European Union, this freedom allows all EU citizens to live, work and travel in other member states.
2/7 2. It sustains millions of jobs
A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, released in October 2015, suggested 3.1 million British jobs were linked to the UK’s exports to the EU.
3/7 3. Your holiday is much easier - and safer
Freedom to travel is one of the most exercised benefits of EU membership, with Britons having made 31 million visits to the EU in 2014 alone. But a lot of the benefits of being an EU citizen are either taken for granted or go unnoticed.
4/7 4. It means you're less likely to get ripped off
Consumer protection is a key benefit of the EU’s single market, and ensures members of the British public receive equal consumer rights when shopping anywhere in Europe.
5/7 5. It offers greater protection from terrorists, paedophiles, people traffickers and cyber-crime
Another example of a lesser-known advantage of EU membership is the benefit of cross-country coordination and cooperation in the fight against crime.
6/7 6. Our businesses depend on it
According to 71% of all members of the Confederation of British Influence (CBI), and 67 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the EU has had an overall positive impact on their business.
7/7 7. We have greater influence
Robin Niblett, Director of think-tank Chatham House, stated in a report published last year: “For a mid-sized country like the UK, which will never again be economically dominant either globally or regionally, and whose diplomatic and military resources are declining in relative terms, being a major player in a strong regional institution can offer a critical lever for international influence.
Mr Cameron’s own backbenchers criticised a draft deal drawn up by Mr Turks and endorsed by the Prime Minister that was revealed earlier this month.
Eurosceptics said the plan was “thin gruel” and “watered down” – largely because Mr Cameron was not offered the four-year block on in-work benefits for EU migrants he had requested.
Mr Tusk instead suggested a one-year waiting period after which benefits would phase back in over the next three years.
The Prime Minister has pledged to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership of the European Union and then hold a referendum on whether to stay in the bloc.
Mr Farage suggested that there would be “people, Conservative voters and Labour voters, who will be irreconcilable after this referendum”.
Ukip appears to be expecting as surge of support after the vote – similar to the one the Scottish National Party benefited from after the Scottish Independence referendum.
The EU in-out referendum was pledged in the Conservative manifesto before the end of 2017 – but the plebiscite is now expected to be held as early as June of this year.