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Ian Jones

Split emerges in UKIP over future of the Assembly

A split on the future of the Assembly has emerged in Ukip with Welsh MEP John Bufton restating his commitment to seek its abolition.

Last week Ukip leader Nigel Farage said he was “relaxed about a federal future for the UK” in which the Assembly gained power over policing.

But Mr Bufton gave a forthright rejection of Mr Farage’s views and suggested a new party could form to seek the scrapping of the Assembly.

He said: “[Mr Farage] said he was comfortable with devolution. I’m certainly not.”

Mr Farage had admitted an “old guard” in his party wanted to abolish the Assembly but he said the results of two referendums should be respected.

Mr Bufton said in a television interview: “Well, I’m part of the old school. I’ve been opposed to the Assembly from its inception and remain so.

“If the party changes its policy, which I think it might do, I think it’s a big big mistake and basically there would be no difference between us and the Conservatives then. So if we lose that, it’s our main plank, that we want to abolish it, then there’s an opening for another party perhaps.”

Ukip’s 2010 general election manifesto committed the party to keeping the Assembly but having MPs perform the work of AMs.

It stated a Ukip Government would: “Retain devolved national assemblies but replace the representatives with Westminster MPs from the same nation. The 129 Scottish MSPs, 60 Welsh AMs and (in time) 108 Northern Irish MLAs would be replaced with their Westminster MPs.

“These MPs would then spend one week a month on devolved business and the rest of their time at Westminster. English MPs would meet in Westminster for English-only days as an ‘English Parliament’.”

Mr Farage has since described the 2010 manifesto as a “horlicks”.

The party is now preparing for the Anglesey by-election, described by Mr Farage as “an important moment for us in Wales”.

A Conservative source commented on the different views of the two Ukip politicians, saying: “This has really exposed a split within Ukip about how it responds to devolution. Most of the [parties] who were sceptical about the Assembly have now accepted the reality of the Assembly and want to make it work better.

“I think people really need to know where Ukip stand on devolution and who speaks for Ukip on devolution.”

Mr Farage today predicted all three main Westminster parties will go into the election promising a referendum on Europe.

Commenting on Conservative MP James Wharton’s push to enshrine a commitment to a referendum in law,  he said: “Today’s debate wouldn’t even be happening if the parties didn’t feel challenged by Ukip. Labour will promise a referendum too and the Lib Dems will promise a referendum too – of course.

“At the moment Miliband may look indecisive and weak. He is not going to want to lose a general election on this question. They will all promise a referendum.”

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