Jose Manuel Barroso: Eurosceptics ‘want to drag Continent back to the trenches’

EU president Barroso singles out Ukip during outspoken address and issues warning to Tories

Brussels

The president of the European Commission accused Eurosceptics today of wanting to take the continent back to “the trenches” of the First World War – and warned British Conservatives they risk losing elections if they copy Ukip’s rhetoric.

In his annual state of the union address, Jose Manuel Barroso praised the European Union for fighting back from the brink of economic catastrophe, and said recovery was “within sight”.

Making reference to the 2014 centenary of the start of the First World War, Mr Barroso said integration was the key to peace, and warned that any splintering of the EU risked turning the clock back. “Let me say this to all those who rejoice in Europe’s difficulties and who want to roll back our integration and go back to isolation: the pre-integrated Europe of the divisions, the war, the trenches, is not what people desire and deserve,” he told MEPs in Strasbourg.

Addressing the debate in Britain about repatriating powers from the EU, he urged nations that do not like the way Europe works to “improve it, find ways to make it stronger, internally and internationally... but don’t turn away from it”. David Cameron has promised a referendum on Britain’s EU membership in 2017 if the Tories remain in power.

Mr Barroso went even further in the debate in the European Parliament that followed his speech, specifically criticising the Tory party. Addressing Martin Callanan, the Conservative MEP for North-east England who had just called for “a new direction” for Europe, he warned that trying to win voters by  aping the Eurosceptic rhetoric  of populist parties could backfire at the polls.

“Increasingly your party and your group is looking like Ukip and the Eurosceptic, anti-European group, and I start to have some doubts that you are going to be elected yourself in Britain, [and] if it is not Ukip that is going to be the first force in British elections,” he said. “Because when it comes to being against Europe, between the original and the copy, people prefer the original.”

Mr Callanan retorted that “It’s a bit rich for an unelected head of the European Commission to give electoral advice”.

The Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, used his speech to reject Mr Barroso’s First World War comparisons: “Those of us who believe in national democracy do not want to take us back to the Western Front or 1914.”

A spokesman for Mr Cameron also criticised the EU president’s argument, saying: “Rather than try to second guess where the British electorate might come out, I think the right thing to do is to focus on the importance of this need for fundamental change – a flexible, adaptable, open European Union.”

Mr Barroso’s speech was his last state of the union address before his term expires next year and elections for new MEPs take place in May. There are concerns among many diplomats in Brussels that the eurozone crisis and prolonged economic downturn has increased hostility towards the EU, and that this sentiment could translate into a record showing for euroscpetic parties in the European Parliament elections in 2014.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Life and Style
Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery assistants required across Cambridgeshire

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

SEN 1:1 Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified teache...

SEN Teachers and Support Staff

£50 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Teacher or L...

English and Media Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English & Media Teacher - ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week