Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s offer to go head to head with UKIP’s Nigel Farage over Britain’s membership of the EU has been a resounding failure for the embattled Lib Dem leader.
In a heated confrontation, Clegg accused Farage of shunning “the modern world” and said he was promoting “dangerous fantasies about a bygone world that no longer exists”.
Farage hit back at Clegg, accusing him of “lying to the British people”.
Early polls showed a decisive win for the UKIP leader. An ICM poll for the Guardian showed that 69% of viewers said the UKIP leader had won, with just 31% giving victory to the Liberal Democrat leader.
A similar picture was revealed by a YouGov poll for the Sun, which found that 68% judged Farage had performed better, against 27% for Clegg, while 5% were unsure.
The two party leaders clashed over statistics for the percentage of laws enforced in Britain that were made by the EU.
Farage attacked Clegg and said he was “lying to the British people” after the Deputy PM said that 7% of Britain’s primary legislation comes from the EU.
Farage said the real figure was closer to 75%, and may even be even higher. “You are lying willingly to the British people about the extent we have given away democracy,” he said.
Clegg furiously replied that Farage’s figures were “fictional” and had “no bearing in reality at all”.
“I don’t think you should start making things up,” Clegg said.
“You’ve done well at it so far, haven’t you?” Farage hit back.
The BBC today reported that a House of Commons Library paper from October 2010 says that of all acts put in place by the UK parliament between 1997 and 2009, 6.8% of primary legislation and 14.1% of secondary legislation had a role in implementing EU directives.
The Prime Minister dismissed both Clegg and Farage as being both “quite extreme”, following the debate. He told BBC Breakfast: “It doesn’t concern me because on this one I do not agree with Nick. I have a very different view about Europe. I want real change in Europe.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail has reported that Farage is using his company Thorn in the Side, to half his tax bill for media appearances and contributions to newspapers. It means the UKIP leader pays a 20% rate of tax instead of 40%, leaving him open to accusations of hypocrisy.