Nigel Farage and Carwyn Jones lock horns over EU membership


Ukip leader Nigel Farage and Wales' First Minister Carwyn Jones have gone head-to-head in a debate about the UK's membership of the European Union.

The two party leaders locked horns in Cardiff in what was billed as the first big debate ahead of the referendum on whether Britain stays in the EU.

Mr Farage said he believed the UK would be better off if it left - and added that it should make its own trade deals as well as having its own rules on immigration.

However, Welsh Labour leader Mr Jones said access to the European market had massive benefits not just for Wales, but the UK as a whole.

He said: "Wales is part of two unions that provide us with stability and prosperity. The union of the UK, and the union of the EU.

"Neither one is perfect. But I will never advocate giving up and walking away. If you want change, you have to work for it, not walk away from the table.

"Now more than ever is the time to work together nationally and internationally.

"The world is getting bigger. It makes no sense for Europe to fragment down into smaller pieces."

The debate came as Prime Minster David Cameron hinted an in/out referendum could take place as early as this summer.

But while the PM has urged his ministers to treat each other with "appropriate respect and courtesy" no matter what side of the debate they favour, Mr Farage and Mr Jones were at loggerheads during an hour-long clash in the Welsh capital.

Hosted by the Institute of Welsh Affairs and chaired by broadcaster Adrian Masters, the pair kicked off the debate with a three-minute opening speech before fielding questions on three different topics.

Ukip leader Mr Farage said EU meddling had turned the UK into "a subordinate member of a bigger club".

He added: "I believe we will be better off out. We should make our trade deals and stand on our own on the world stage and re-engage with the Commonwealth and others.

"Crucially, I believe we should control our own borders. Unlimited EU immigration has driven down wages."

However, barrister turned politician Mr Jones said 200,000 jobs in Wales relied on European trade.

He added: "Europe is our largest trading partner - 43% of our trade is with EU countries.

"Five hundred companies from other EU countries have their base in Wales.

"I don't want those companies to feel like they are no longer welcome and see them up sticks to Italy or Spain.

"The EU is one of the world's biggest markets. Why on earth would we want to take the risk of leaving that market?"

Mr Farage and Mr Jones also strongly disagreed on the issue of immigration and the benefits of being in the EU.

At one stage, the Ukip leader derided the Welsh Labour leader with a jibe of "keep it sane" - while Mr Jones mocked Mr Farage's sudden reference to the Magna Carta.

Supporters of both politicians' parties were quick to claim victory in the debate.

However, Welsh Liberal Democrat and Assembly Member Eluned Parrott thought neither leader could claim to have won.

She said: "Neither person came out of this shouting match particularly well.

"Carwyn Jones was right to be arguing the importance of the UK remaining the EU. Yet, his views are in stark contrast to his party in London, where Jeremy Corbyn remains ambivalent on this major issue."