A newly-elected UKIP MEP says Europe must “wake up and heed the warning” after the resounding success of Eurosceptic parties last weekend.
Bradford businessman Amjad Bashir, who won a seat on the European Parliament on Sunday night, said Prime Minister David Cameron had kicked the European Union issue “into the long grass” for too long.
Mr Cameron has urged fellow EU leaders to embrace reform, as mainstream parties fight to salvage their positions in the aftermath of last week’s Euro elections.
The Prime Minister yesterday met heads of government of the 28 EU states for a scheduled summit in Brussels. The meeting was dominated by the political earthquake of Sunday night, which saw UKIP lead the polls in Britain, the far-right National Front come first in France and the extreme-left Syriza movement take top spot in Greece.
Ahead of the summit, the Prime Minister told his fellow leaders they must seize the opportunity to “heed the views expressed at the ballot box that the EU needs to change and to show it cannot be business as usual”, a Downing Street spokesman said.
Mr Bashir said he welcomed this, and urged the PM to call a referendum on membership of the EU sooner rather than later.
He said: “Because of our success, the whole of Europe has to wake up and heed the warning and call this referendum.”
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was time to make the case for Europe more loudly and confront “reactionary forces” like UKIP and the National Front in France.
Mr Bashir, the party’s first Asian MEP, spoke out over claims his party is racist.
He said: “The accusation that was levelled against our party, that it is racist, is fully demolished because if it was a party of racists, why would they select me, and why would they elect me?”
Mr Bashir, a food entrepreneur, was raised and educated in Bradford, and although he now lives in Leeds, he describes himself as “a Bradfordian through-and-through”.
UKIP faced criticism earlier this year for being the laziest of all parties in the EU, when its voting average placed it bottom of 76 European parties.
But Mr Bashir said he would be getting fully involved with the European Parliament, despite his opposition to it.
He said: “I’m a hardworking guy and I will do the same for the EU. I will turn up and I will try and participate as much as possible.”