Manifesto Check: UKIP’s top policies

Farage lays out his party’s vision for an EU-free Britain. Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Welcome to The Conversation’s Manifesto Check, where academics subject each party’s election manifesto to unbiased, expert scrutiny. Here is what our experts had to say about the UKIP’s top policies. Follow the links for further analysis.

Economy

Jonathan Perraton, Senior Lecturer in Economics at University of Sheffield

The UK Independence Party claims in its manifesto that it is the only party to have had its manifesto commitments independently checked for their affordability. There are a series of eye-catching spending promises, which their manifesto boldly claims are fully costed and that UKIP is the only party able to eliminate the budget deficit. But all of UKIP’s savings are subject to a number of uncertainties.

The proposals include an increase in expenditure on the NHS by £3 billion per year, with 8,000 more GPs, 20,000 more nurses and 3,000 more midwives. Defence spending is to be protected with projected rises in real terms to come and 6,000 new jobs would be created in the police, prison service and border force. On the taxation side, inheritance tax would be abolished, the personal allowance raised to at least £13,000 with the threshold for the top 40% band raised to £56,000 and the introduction of a new intermediate 30% band for incomes in the £43,500 to £55,000 income bracket.

This amounts to around £32 billion of commitments over the lifetime of the next parliament. They would be paid for by tackling what UKIP refers to as “politically correct spending programmes”. The largest savings are identified in terms of stopping payments to the European Union (saving £9 billion), cutting the aid budget to 0.2% of national income (£11 billion) and abandoning the Barnett formula for determining how public expenditure is allocated (£5 billion) – this would sharply reduce expenditure in Scotland.

UKIP also proposes to cancel HS2 (£4 billion) and cut back various government departments, particularly slashing spending in the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Altogether, this would allow them to fund their bold plans. But all of UKIP’s savings are all subject to a number of uncertainties.

Read more here.

Education

Anna Vignoles, Professor of Education, Jesus College at University of Cambridge

In many respects, UKIP’s education manifesto pledges are unremarkable, and their broad approach is similar to that taken by a number of the other parties. For example, UKIP pledges the need for education that is responsive to each child’s needs, emphasises the importance of high quality, well supported teachers who have high status in society, and stresses the importance of primary education in particular.

The party is correct in saying that these are all important elements of a high quality education system. But their proposals on grammar schools and higher education are, by contrast, much more controversial.

Read more here.

EU relations

Susan Milner, Reader in European Politics at University of Bath

UKIP’s vision for Britain’s future rests on an exit from the European Union. This vision is laid out in a section in their manifesto unambiguously entitled “Brexit”. UKIP states that a withdrawal from the EU means the UK can take back control of business and employment legislation and immigration rules, and sets out how the party would go about withdrawing the UK’s membership.

Two crucial aspects of this strategy are unclear. First, although everything in UKIP’s manifesto is based on a withdrawal from the EU, the manifesto calls for a referendum on the question of membership. The reasons for this are not hard to fathom. Without locating withdrawal within the context of some kind of public consultation, the party’s critique of the EU as undemocratic and bureaucratic could be seen as hypocritical.

Indeed, the party’s support is often seen as resting on a wider public disaffection with established politics, and a call to more direct forms of democracy. Tactically, UKIP cannot hope to take office, but must aim for a “kingmaker” role in a future coalition. By calling for a referendum, UKIP is forming a bridge to the Conservative manifesto.

Yet a referendum on EU membership has never been the party’s main aim, nor has it been the key focus of its support. Lord Ashcroft’s 2012 poll – which was the first major insight into UKIP support – showed that it rested on a more diffuse sense of unease and loss. But the most glaring inconsistency in the manifesto is the leap from referendum to withdrawal: UKIP takes an “out” vote for granted. Assuming that Britain would vote to leave the EU is a very risky strategy indeed.

Read more here.

Health

Richard Cookson, Research Fellow at University of York

In essence, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) propose to solve the problems of the NHS by spending more money. The risk, of course, is that the NHS could swallow this extra money without delivering improved quality and outcomes for patients. UKIP do not explain how they will get value for money from this spending. And like the other parties, they do not spell out what tax increases and spending cuts in other areas of public spending will be required to accommodate the NHS’ ever increasing share of public expenditure.

The UKIP manifesto does, however, devote a substantial amount of space to the issue of “health tourism”, whereby foreign nationals come to the UK to obtain free health care. As set out later in the article, this kind of “health tourism” actually costs less than one fifth of 1% of the NHS budget. The space devoted to this issue by UKIP is therefore wholly disproportionate to its economic importance.

Read more here.

Immigration

Catherine Harris, Research Fellow at University of Sheffield

UKIP’s stance on controlling immigration has been subject to ongoing public and political scrutiny for years. Now, at last, the party’s manifesto has outlined its policies and how they would be achieved in greater detail.

UKIP claims that the only way for the UK to control its borders is to leave the European Union. Since the UK remains in the EU, UKIP’s immigration policies are bound to abide by the EU’s fundamental principle of free movement of people – but they also seek to significantly reduce immigration.

The party is proposing an Australian-style points-based immigration system. All migrants would need to have insurance to access the health system, and migrants would not be allowed to claim benefits in the UK unless they had paid into the system for five years and obeyed the law.

According to Nigel Farage, the resulting “big reduction in numbers” coming to the UK would relieve pressure on schools, hospitals and houses.

While it may be the case that lower immigration would take some pressure off services (and even that is not clear), reducing immigration could have serious negative effects too. Don’t forget that migrants put a lot back into the UK economy through taxes, for instance.

Read more here.