UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage took questions from an ITV audience tonight at 8PM GMT (3PM EST) before the Prime Minister David Cameron did the same.
The town hall-style discussions are as close to a real debate that the Prime Minister would allow during this EU referendum campaign, leading to many considering him too afraid to face Mr. Farage one-on-one.
CAMERON ON SECOND: Question one is about Cameron’s contradictory statements on British collapse after Brexit while he said “We’d be fine” a few months ago.
Cameron quotes big corporates, global government agencies and EU-funded orgs in his response.
“The IMF…. is paid to warn Prime Ministers” he says.
“I want to take a moment to say why I believe these experts are right… the single market… 500m people… of course if we have less good access to that market our economy will be smaller”.
Questioner follows up by saying all the predictions have always been wrong. Cameron replies, “They make common sense to me”.
Cameron says the car industry is fine and dandy in the UK and leaving the EU would collapse it.
Question two: You said we’d leave if you didn’t get your renegotiation… you didn’t — why are you now saying we should stay?
Cameron is claiming he DID get what he wanted from the EU renegotiation but that’s patently untrue. He got just about nothing from the EU leaders.
Questioner says you should be about to pick skilled labour from anywhere in the world if you want, but we just take unskilled labour from the EU.
Cameron replies: “I want to see more [of our own people] go to universities”.
Question three: I have no GP, they’re all full. The place I grew up is now a “no go zone”:
Cameron: “Pulling out of the single market would shrink our economy.” Cameron is bringing this back onto economy, not answering the question.
Questioner: “I voted for you at the last election to bring immigration down… you haven’t done that… my standard of living is going down… you said leaving the EU is rolling the dice on our children’s future… you’ve rolled that dice already”.
Cameron is flummoxed. Brings it back to “jobs and economy” again… hits out at “the little England of Nigel Farage”.
Question four on the NHS: If we remain in the EU how can we deal with the pressure of migrants?
Cameron: “It is a challenge but it’s not a challenge we should meet by damaging our economy”.
He’s been interrupted: “We don’t need 50,000 migrant workers in the NHS,” the questioner says.
Cameron: “We’ll put £12bn over this parliament into the NHS.”
Q5: Do you share my frustration that EU citizens can come into the UK and get benefits (after no Brexit)?
Cameron says we have a “special status in the EU… we have our own currency… we’re not in the no-border zone”… “reform doesn’t end on June 23rd”.
He says we “won’t be at the table” when the rules are being made in Europe if we leave, and that he’s happy with his renegotiation.
“Leaving is quitting. I don’t think we’re quitters”.
Questioner isn’t buying it – says he didn’t achieve his renegotiation.
Cameron says he got reform promised on benefits – even though it’s just a four year pause on some benefits for EU migrants.
Question six is from Julie Etchingham (the host): how many migrants will come if we stay in?
“I’m not going to make a forecast” says Cameron.
Question 7: The UK is built on the pillars of democracy. Is it not shameful that in the EU our parliament is not sovereign?
Cameron: “I think we’re engaged in the greatest act of national sovereignty…. a referendum”.
“Parliament is sovereign,” Cameron says.
“I love this country with a passion,” he adds, “and if you love your country you don’t damage its economy…. I do worry about a second Scottish referendum if we leave”.
“Sometimes [the EU] can drive me mad,” Cameron admits, “it IS a bureaucracy”.
Question 8: No one knows who their MEP is – it’s shameful that the EU isn’t reaching out… we don’t know who they are…
“Brussels needs reform” replies Cameron. “Frankly I don’t like [the European Parliament] very much”.
Question 9: Foreign criminals can’t be deported under EU rules:
Cameron: “There’s a directive on prisoner transfers coming into effect”. Kind of undercuts his point that our parliament is sovereign.
Question 10: Win or lose, are you finished as PM?
“This is a vote of the British people… I will accept your instructions…”
He didn’t answer the question. Repeated: “Nigel Farage little England option”.
And that’s it for Cameron.
FARAGE IS UP FIRST: Question one is on the economy…
ANSWER: Farage starts on the history of the exchange rate mechanism, stating that all the economists were wrong then. Wrong on the euro too.
“Thank God we didn’t join the Euro. This same gang… through this process of group think… they masquerade as being independent…”
“Trade is not made by governments… by bureaucrats… it’s made by people like you”.
Question two is about the pharmaceuticals industry leaving the UK if we Brexit:
Farage says he’s not happy with the way the industry has behaved and lobbied in the European Union any way.
“We have in this country a rather big domestic market,” he adds.
The questioner appears to have a rather large vested interest in Big Pharma.
Another economy question, this time on tariffs and trade:
“The cost of membership now far outweighs the benefits” he says, telling the audience that his parents voted to join the Common Market, not a political union. Tariffs have come down around the world thanks to globalisation, he notes.
The questioner shoots back with a quote called Jean Claude Juncker – who has threatened Britain with tariffs.
“We’re British, we’re better than that,” Farage says. “We’re not going to be bullied”.
Fourth question on wages – questioner seems to want wages to remain low:
Living standards for people on average salaries has decreased by 10 per cent, says Nigel. Questioner says Brexit “would artificially make wages higher and make Britain uncompetitive”.
Farage quotes Lord Rose, Chairman of the Stronger In campaign back at the questioner, who said wages rising for the average worker is not a good thing.
“It’s about time as a society we start thinking not just about GDP figures,” he concludes.
Fifth question is about Cologne’s rape scandal and Germany:
Farage says he’s used to being demonised, but that Cologne and migrant rape has caused serious problems in Europe: Sweden and Germany.
He says Merkel made a big mistake with its open border immigration policies, but that he won’t be lectured for being a “racist” any more.
Sixth question is a woman asking Nigel if he’s anti-black (an odd one):
Nigel says he’s pro-Commonwealth and that black people have suffered because of Britain’s open border with Europe.
“If we have an Australian-style points system rather than an open door to 500 million people it will be easier for black people to come to Britain”.
Seventh question is on immigration: EU migrants pay more in, says the questioner:
“In economic terms it’s probably about neutral,” Farage says. “But… we need to value people’s quality of life and standard of living, rather than just GDP figures”.
“We need to build a house every seven minutes in order [to deal with current levels of immigration]” he adds.
The Americans don’t have free movement or a trade deal with the EU, and they still trade fine, says Farage.
Eighth question is on security, quoting Europol:
The migrant policy, Nigel quotes Europol back at the audience member, said that ISIS are using the migrant crisis to allow hundreds of jihadis into the United Kingdom.
“I suggest we do [crime fighting] as a sovereign nation”, says Farage. “We don’t need to be the 51st American state [to work with them]”.
Ninth question: Even if we left the EU we’d still be part of lots of other global organisations:
“We have no vote in the World Trade organisation [as members of the EU] says Farage”. The questioner seems to think we would lose global influence by leaving the EU and that the unelected Jean Claude Juncker is elected.
10th question: What will the EU look like in 10 years?
“I think it’s done for,” says Farage.
“The project doesn’t work,” he says. “A happy Europe will be a democratic Europe of sovereign states”.
And that’s it for Farage!