Nigel Farage launched his South West campaign for the European Parliament elections in Plymouth today.
Farage and former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe visited the Hoe, where they were welcomed by a small group of local supporters.
Ms Widdecombe, who lives near Haytor on Dartmoor, is the leading candidate in the South West for Mr Farage’s Brexit Party.
The region will send six Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to Brussels in the elections, which take place on May 23.
Each party has put up a list of six candidates, but the system of proportional representation used means that only those in the top places are likely to be elected.
“We think this election is not so much about the European Union. It’s about democracy,” Mr Farage said.
But he admitted that he would like to bring about the end of the EU.
“I want a completely different Europe. I’m completely pro-Europe in a sense. I think the other nation states of Europe deserve to be independent as well,” he said.
Asked if the political chaos of the past three years had been worth it, Mr Farage said: “We’ve had a complete, abject failure of leadership. A Prime Minister who has attempted to deceive us; a Parliament that is 75% Remain; promises not kept. It has been a shocking mess.”
The government has already spent more than £6billion on Brexit. He said: “Three years of hesitation – it’s becoming very expensive. Freed of this we are going to save a lot of money [and] make our own friendships around the world.”
He defended his role as an MEP who doesn’t want the European Union to exist by saying, “the Catalans go to Madrid, the Scottish Nationalists go to Westminster. All over the world there are separatist movements.”
“But this election is here. Let’s fight it. We are more ambitious than I have ever been before. This is about changing politics for good. It’s about breaking the two-party system. It’s about updating and modernising British politics.
“These European elections for us are just the first step. Ms Widdecombe supported Mr Farage’s decision not to publish a manifesto until after the May 23 election.
“This is not a general election,” she said. “We don’t have to have policies on health and education and the things that are dictated by national governments. What we have to have is one very simple policy. “Britain voted to come out. We don’t want to be in the European Parliament.”
Asked why, in that case, she is standing, she said: “Because what we’re doing in Europe is fighting for Britain’s right to come out. The last thing we want to see is our representatives in the European Parliament kow-towing and keeping us in.
“It is crucial that when people like [Jean-Claude] Juncker [President of the European Commission] look at us they see they see a phalanx of people who represent the will of the British people, who wish to come out.
“We’ve got to send them a united message: We want out.”
“The last three years have been chaotic because the whole process has been mishandled. You’ve got a Parliament which is roughly speaking 75% remain, and you’ve got a population which is roughly speaking 52% leave.”
She said she would support Theresa May’s withdrawal deal – which has been defeated three times in Parliament – “if and only if it came with legally binding commitments, which the EU refuses, that the [Northern Ireland] backstop will not be continuous and that we can come out when we want to come out”.
But she said that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.
The United States and India have both already made their positions clear on striking bilateral trade deals outside the EU.
The United States has said that Britain would have to accept cheap American farm produce, which is often produced with lower animal welfare standards than food in Britain.
India has said it will demand visa-free travel to Britain for its citizen.
Ms Widdecombe said that World Trade Organisation terms would be better than what we have already, and insisted we would not have to accept those terms.
“The whole point about a trade deal is you negotiate it.”
She said the United States had offered a no-tariffs deal. When asked how she would feel if Devon farmers were undercut and put out of business, she said: “I don’t accept that they will be undercut and put out of business.
“Farmers were voting in the referendum to come out. This is project fear mark two.
“It is wrong to say that if we come out of the EU all the bad things are going to happen and none of the good things are.
“We don’t have to accept visa-free travel [from India] and if they won’t do a deal, fair enough.”Mr Farage has been criticised for failing to attend committee meetings in the European Parliament. Ms Widdecombe committed to working in the parliament “in whatever way I see fit. Of course I shall earn my pay,” she said.
“Maybe not in the way they would like.”
Mr Farage’s tour continued with a visit to the fish market at Sutton Harbour.
He said his message to Plymouth’s fishermen was: “We haven’t all given up on you.”