EU-Skeptics Gain Momentum in Britain | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 10.06.2004
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EU-Skeptics Gain Momentum in Britain

Elections for the European Parliament started Thursday as Dutch and British voters headed to the polls. In Britain, an anti-EU party with celebrity backing could do particularly well.

Joan Collins finds it hard to talk to other Europeans

Joan Collins finds it hard to talk to other Europeans

Nearly 349 million people across the EU are eligible to elect a new parliament through Sunday. According to some opinion polls, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) could get as much as 18 percent of the British vote, which would make the right-wing party the third strongest British group in the EU parliament. Currently, three members of the European Parliament belong to the UKIP.

In the weeks and months leading up to the election, clever PR and support from conservative tabloids pushed the UKIP from an outsider position to the center of media attention. In addition, the party's top candidate, Robert Kilroy-Silk, hosted a TV talk show until he called Arabs "suicide bombers, limb amputators (and) women repressors" and was fired from his position.

Kilroy-Silk has promised voters to end alleged EU paternalism. "My father did not give his life in the war that we should be governed by Chirac and Schröder, by France and Germany," he said at a press conference.

Soap opera glamour

UKIP officials have also managed to get glamorous support from Joan Collins, best known as the scheming Alexis Carrington in the U.S. TV soap opera "Dynasty." The 71-year-old actress, who has admittedly never voted in her life, went as far as accusing EU bureaucrats of wanting to "kill my England."

Collins lives in southern France and follows in the footsteps of French actress Bridget Bardot, who has voiced her support for France's extreme right-wing National Front party in the past. Collins reportedly also said she didn't know what to talk about during dinner conversations with Slovaks, Slovenes or Estonians after chit-chatting about the weather.

Imploding the system from within

The party's platform can be summed up quickly: No to an EU constitution. No to joining the euro. And no to EU membership in general. UKIP officials have put quotation marks around EU parliament in their brochures as they don't believe the legislature is a necessary body.

Ant-Europapartei England Robert Kilroy-Silk Porträtfoto

Robert Kilroy-Silk during a press conference in May.

Kilroy-Silk (photo) still wants to go to Strasbourg and Brussels, where the parliament holds its sessions: He wants to help implode the system from within and return to a loosely associated free trade zone.

"We know that many parliamentarians of the new EU member states don't support a superstate but a free trade zone," Kilroy told reporters. "They sympathize with America and we agree with them. We will form a larger group of Euro-skeptics in the European parliament. A lot will change."

Some British observers see the UKIP as a catchment basin for nationalists, racists and opponents of asylum-seekers. But even the governing Labour party, which is expected to take a beating in the elections, has somewhat taken up the general anti-EU trend: During negotiations for an EU constitution, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw keeps talking about red lines that have to be drawn to preserve Britain's independence and he promised not to sacrifice Britain on the altar of Europe.

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