UKIP Northern Ireland
UKIP Northern Ireland

UKIP transport spokesman Jill Seymour has accused the European Union of trying to drive British people out of their cars with their quest to clamp down on vehicle emissions.

The West Midlands MEP was speaking at the European parliament in Strasbourg during a debate on a new report into the EU’s strategy for low-emission mobility.

“This report is all well and good if it continues to allow citizens the freedom to choose how they travel,” she said.

“It was after the 1997 Kyoto agreement that our then Chancellor Gordon Brown announced that diesel cars should attract less vehicle tax than their petrol equivalent because of their better CO2 performance.

“Then, in 2001, Mr Brown reduced vehicle tax on cars with low CO2 – this was a major change to encourage the public to buy diesel cars. Yet now we are increasingly seeing dramatic change to what forms of transport we are to use.”

Mrs Seymour said the report was seeking to ‘comprehensively reduce the attractiveness of private forms of transport’ with a policy that it’s the polluter that pays.

“In other words, the EU are driving us out of our cars.”

She added: “What I do find positive is a move towards zero emissions based on consumer choice. I stress, consumer choice.

“What I don’t find helpful, however, is the kneejerk solutions that punish the driver before any proper infrastructure is in place.”

Mrs Seymour said it was clear that electric vehicles are becoming much more efficient and user friendly, but many people lack the money to change their cars.

“Just as citizens need time to prepare, so does the manufacturing industry. They still have forecourts full of petrol and diesel cars. Encouraging the development of hybrids will help aid the transition.

“UK based Jaguar-Land Rover is one company, like others, who have recognised the need to change and they should be commended on their projects. They are reducing nitrogen oxide and particles which are harmful.

“It is wrong for the EU to force a change though financial penalties, dividing those who can afford and those who can´t.

“Whilst some parts of this report are moving in the right direction, it will be up to the UK government, and they alone, to set the standards, once we gain our independence in 2019.”