Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage To Debate UK's Membership of the EU


The European Parliament elections will be held this May, and there are some European politicians who are worried that some voters may turn to anti-E.U. or racist parties.

One of the most prominent of the euroskeptic parties is the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, is known for not speaking ambiguously and for his animated speeches in the European Parliament (a collection of highlights below).

Earlier this month British Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg challenged Farage to a debate on the U.K.'s membership of the E.U. Today it was reported that Farage has accepted and that the televised hour-long debate will be held on April 2.  

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Clegg is a strong pro-E.U. advocate. He speaks five European languages, has Dutch and Russian ancestry, is married to a Spaniard, and served as a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2004.

The pro-E.U. Liberal Democrats are one of the two parties in the U.K.'s coalition government. Their coalition partners, the Conservative Party, has some euroskeptic members. Indeed, much of UKIP's support comes from disgruntled former Conservatives supporters, who are not happy about the Conservative's position on British membership of the E.U. British Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron has pledged to hold a referendum on the U.K.'s membership of the E.U. in 2017 if the Conservatives win the next general election.

What shouldn't be overlooked regarding this debate is what the British public think of Clegg, Farage, the Liberal Democrats, and UKIP.

Unfavorable opinion towards Clegg has skyrocketed since the last general election. A day after the 2010 general election only 19 percent of poll respondents of a YouGov poll said that Clegg was doing "badly." A year later that figure was 71 percent and the most recent figures from last month shows that 70 percent of respondents believe Clegg is doing "badly." Another collection of polling by YouGov shows that currently only 9 percent of respondents would vote for the Liberal Democrats, down from 18 percent in June 2010.

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UKIP, which is currently polling slightly above the Liberal Democrats, has enjoyed some recently increased popularity but remains marred by embarrassing scandals, prompting the party to ask members who are interested in standing for office to declare that they have no "skeletons in the cupboard." Dan Hodges recently wrote a blog post for The Telegraph titled "UKIP is now a racist party" in which he outlines some of the unpleasant behavior on display at UKIP's recent spring conference.

After the announcement of the debate YouGov put together some polling information of Farage and Clegg. It doesn't look great for either of the men. I can't see how putting them in the same room for an hour to talk about the U.K.'s membership of the E.U. is going to change these perceptions very much.