Here at Left Foot Forward we've been critical of Nick Clegg in the past, but during tonight's debate our sympathies will be firmly with the Lib Dem leader.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg goes up against UKIP leader Nigel Farage tonight in the second of their debates on whether Britain should stay in or get out of the European Union.
Last week’s clash saw the two go head to head on everything from immigration to benefit tourism to British foreign policy. Tonight’s debate will likely be a response to many of the issues that came up in the first debate as well an argument over comments made by the two party leaders since last Wednesday.
Here at Left Foot Forward we’ve been critical of Nick Clegg in the past, but during tonight’s debate our sympathies will be firmly with the Lib Dem leader.
With that in mind, we’ve come up with five questions Clegg ought to put to Farage during this evening’s debate.
1. What would UKIP do about EU citizens already living in the UK?
If EU immigration to the UK has been such an unmitigated disaster then what do UKIP plan to do about EU migrants who are already settled in the UK? Are they going to be sent home? And if so how is that going to be achieved? By whipping up hostility to migrants settled in the UK and offering incentives for them to return home?
If this doesn’t work, is UKIP really willing to break up families and destroy lives to appease its voter base? And what happens if other EU countries follow suit? Around 1.8m Britons live in Europe and over 1m of those live in Spain, according to government estimates. Are they going to potentially have to return home?
2. Would you derecognise gay marriage in law?
Last week the first same-sex marriages took place in England as new laws voted through by Parliament came into effect. Farage has previously said that his opposition to gay marriage is based on it not being a “political priority” as well as the potential objections of “faith communities”. Now that gay marriage is a reality, the first of these arguments no longer holds. As for the second, it didn’t make much sense in the first place: no one of faith is expected to conduct a same sex marriage if they choose not to.
Would a UKIP government annul existing same-sex marriages? Would it do the same for Civil Partnerships? You can’t oppose something that is already a reality unless you are prepared to act on it.
3. What exactly is it that the UKIP leader admires about Vladimir Putin?
Last week Nigel Farage described Russian President Vladimir Putin’s handling of the Syria crisis as “brilliant”. Nick Clegg rightly responded by calling Farage’s comments “utterly grotesque”. Clegg should now press the UKIP leader on what exactly he admires about Putin’s strategy in Syria. Is it the propping up of Bashar al Assad with Russian arms, or perhaps the way Russia has been working with the Assad regime to hinder humanitarian efforts aimed at alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people.
“It isn’t a game,” as Clegg put it.
Also, what exactly is admirable about a President who is whipping up a tidal wave of prejudice against the Russian LGBT community?
4. Should we meet our NATO committments?
During last week’s televised debate Farage claimed that the EU had “blood on its hands” over Ukraine. The idea is that the EU and NATO ‘provoked’ the Russian invasion of Ukraine by inviting former Soviet Satellite states to join both organisations.
In reality it isn’t necessary to speculate as to Vladimir Putin’s motivations in Crimea. As Putin said very recently, he believes that “Crimea has always been part of Russian”. In other words, the annexation of Crimea fits very nicely with Putin’s well publicised dream of restoring the former glory of the Soviet Union. Should we now renege on our NATO commitment to protect other former Soviet states, such as Estonia, in case we upset Putin? And what about the sovereignty of small nations? I thought that was what UKIP was all about?
5. Should we keep Scots out of England if they vote for independence?
If we’re going to be pulling up the drawbridge on EU citizens coming to work in the UK, are the same rules going to apply to Scots coming to England should the country vote for independence? If not, why the double standard?
And if we accept the premise that EU citizens are coming to the UK to take jobs which rightfully belong to Brits, then should we not also allow local authorities in England to introduce rules governing the movement of labour? After all, if there really are a finite number of jobs then surely that’s the next reasonable step after shutting out EU workers.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.
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