This should be of concern to every person who wants the UK to leave the EU

On 5th September, UKIP held what it described as its biggest ever rally as 900 people gathered to listen to Nigel Farage and others speak.

The event received a write up in the Shropshire Star, which covered the key points made by the speakers.  Those people who have looked or will look at the report in the expectation of seeing some red meat on the subject of withdrawal from the EU and plans for how such an exit can be delivered, can be forgiven for feeling some disappointment.  The report shows the EU barely warranted a mention, and when it did it wasn’t Farage talking about it.

Being a curious sort, this prompted me to have a discussion about it with a highly placed source in the party.  They confirmed that EU matters were only mentioned in passing, but more revealingly explained that after the event Farage was delighted that the focus on the biggest political issue affecting the UK – membership of the EU and its consequences – was minimal.  It wasn’t an accident, it was by design.

While David Cameron talked the talk in imploring his Conservative members to stop ‘banging on about Europe’, Farage is walking the walk by doing just that.

Previous insights provided to me by well placed UKIP sources, one of whom has just landed on the party’s MEP candidate list for next year’s elections, asserted that Farage is more interested in building a rival to the Conservatives in the hope of splitting that party and capturing a segment of it, than pushing for an exit from the EU.  The new focus on emulating the targeted campaign approach used by the Liberal Democrats, in order to win a few seats rather than putting resources into all constituencies, confirms their assessments.

But what should cause even more concern for withdrawal realists – who understand leaving the EU while preserving the UK’s commercial interests requires a structured approach where Article 50 is invoked and agreement is reached on the relationship the UK will have with the EU after departure, before the European Communities Act (ECA) is repealed – is my source’s confirmation that Farage sees such a negotation as time consuming and an opportunity for EU meddling.  Farage, who has carefully straddled the fence in public by not siding for or against the Article 50 route despite a clear split in his party on the matter, in private advocated the scorched earth approach of leaving first and trying to negotiate something after, which would leave UK commercial interests at serious risk of damage.

This represents a serious threat to an ‘out’ campaign in any future referendum on EU membership.  The withdrawalists would come under incessant attack from the business community which would only look kindly on withdrawal if they could be assured their interests would be protected after the UK leaves the EU.  The Farage approach does not and cannot give that assurance.  In the meantime, Farage will not let UKIP announce its policy and approach for fear it will alienate a substantial number of UKIP members and will see the party exposed to (justified) attack from the Europhiles who will seize on such naive stupidity with alacrity.

What this demonstrates is that, once again, a political party created to achieve a particular end has compromised itself to service internal party maintenance and management.  As Norway showed during its referendum campaign on EU membership, a non party political campaign is the only way of ensuring the objectives are not watered down or jettisoned in favour of a party’s interests.

By way of a closing thought, if you think it is ridiculous that an anti EU party such as UKIP could be pulled off to focus on other things at the whim of its leader in this way, then consider for yourself the evidence that Farage is reversing from EU matters as part of his dream of being a British MP and leading a party in Parliament.  In the Evening Standard we see Tony Blair getting substantial space to set out yet another FUD-laden argument against withdrawing from the EU.  You would think the UKIP leader and by definition the supposed leader of the Eurosceptic movement would be all over this, exposing the misrepresentation, falsehoods and errors in Blair’s and numerous others that have been published in recent weeks and months.

You would think Farage would be demanding a right of reply to set the record straight – or at the very least shotuing loudly that he is being denied a platform.  There is still no counter to this prolonged Europhile line of attack in the media, and certainly nothing rebutting it on the UKIP website.  But Farage did somehow find time to be quoted at length in the Daily Express on High Speed Rail 2… he didn’t even mention the EU origins of the project in order to create a high speed rail network across the union.  I’ll leave it to Farage’s vocal band of supporters to explain how this focus does anything to develop public support for withdrawal from the EU or move us foward on the journey to successfully leaving the union at a time the Europhiles are working the public and winning them over to supporting continued membership.

The implications of this are clear.  The Eurosceptic movement is not being helped by UKIP because Farage’s agenda means he has other fish to fry.  The campaign is weaker as a result.  UKIP should be a standard bearer, it should be the flag ship of the ‘out’ campaign.  But under Farage it has relegated itself to the position of day-tripping passenger on a support vessel.  Do UKIP’s members realise what’s happening, or do they even care?

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19 Responses to “This should be of concern to every person who wants the UK to leave the EU”


  1. 1 Richard North 10/09/2013 at 10:55 am

    That really turns UKIP into a bed-blocker. Far from educating the voting public at large, Farage isn’t even reaching his own members. This is the response of a branch chairman to a question on UKIP’s policy to Art 50:

    “My understanding is that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is designed to prevent the sheep leaving the fold. We must leave on our own terms, even though we know the technocrats will try to make it as difficult as they can”.

    I suppose, though, that if this is the level of ignorance in the party, it is better if UKIP keep away from EU issues and leaves them to the grown-ups.

  2. 2 Sackerson 10/09/2013 at 11:17 am

    It’s a fork – bank on about the EU and stay on the outside, quieten down on that subject in order to increase your vote and get accused of abandoning your principles. The question is, do you really think Farage has given up Brexit as a goal?

  3. 3 Autonomous Mind 10/09/2013 at 11:55 am

    A couple of points. Where is the sense in going quiet on the EU just as the ‘in’ campaign is dominating the debate? And surely the question to ask is if Farage has Brexit as a goal, what is he doing to bring it about? Finding evidence to support his exit credentials is getting harder all the time. I believe he is leaving EU withdrawal behind for personal reasons.

    In answer to your question, I think Farage will do anything that helps him realise his ambition. If that means turning UKIP into just another mainstream party to help him into Westminster, then I have no doubt he would do whatever suits him.

  4. 4 LeoSavantt 10/09/2013 at 2:20 pm

    The reality of the hustings may have been overlooked in this piece. Connecting with the voter and backing up the EU withdrawal case with other policies that appeal is important and probably necessary to attract votes.

    It works like this, “That Nigel Farage who wants the UK to leave the EU, well he talks a lot of sense on HS2 (etc. etc. etc.), so maybe he’s onto something when it comes to Europe”.

    Furthermore the complexities of withdrawal, via Article 50 or indeed any other means, will remain opaque until the process of withdrawal begins. No one in Brussels or London ever imagined Article 50 would ever be used in anger. Nobody, whether that be the Commission, Council or indeed UKIP can second guess this one. It is simply uncharted territory.

    This is not to say that this issue should not be discussed, and that the possible options, mechanisms and pitfall analysed; but I suggest that for Mr. Farage to publicly raise this issue, at the present juncture, would be both foolish, unnecessary and counter productive.

    First we ideally need the settled will of the people to be firmly in favour of withdrawal and for that to be demonstrated democratically and unequivocally. At this point the UK will presumably play its hand (badly or otherwise).

    However, today we are not even sure if Lisbon will be politically or even legally the most important Treaty. Indeed if Cameron’s timetable is followed, it does seem possible that by 2018 a fully federalised Eurozone could be in-place (assuming that insolvency and civil unrest hasn’t put paid to the centralist agenda). This may well change the dynamic in Europe so that it is a new Treaty, not Lisbon, that federalists will rally around.

    The criticism of Mr. Farage’s strategy is rather harsh, his job is to attract voters and at this stage not to inform them about the technicalities of the possible mechanisms of withdrawal. This is made especially so at this time when even the most prescient would be hard pressed to offer a credible forecast as to how things might actually pan out.

    In light of that Farage, and UKIP’s over all approach of weakening the Conservative Party in its Europhile form at least (and of course to a lesser extent the others) and raising UKIP’s profile on EU and non-EU policy areas is working. So much so that even the President of the United States (whilst remaining philosophically a Europhile) raised the Referendum issue on the steps of the White House. It is UKIP’s rise that has forced the issue onto the agenda. So far their strategy not only looks relatively successful, it is also the only democratic game in town.

    That does not mean those with more in-depth knowledge should not continue to debate, explore, and advise on the consequences, mechanisms and possible outcomes. Or that UKIp’s approach should not be criticised, as it has been consistently done on this site and at both a credible and intellectually coherent level .

    Never-the-less there comes a time, especially as support and electoral success increase, when the politics of analysis and election separate.

    The most important thing is votes cast in the direction of the UK’s withdrawal. With those votes comes moral authority, a force that may prove to be more powerful than Article 50, or indeed any other piece of ill thought out EU legislation (for in reality Lisbon was never designed to be a Treaty but a law within which the powers and functions of the EU were re-codified and increased).

    It seems not unlikely that if, when and indeed how the UK leaves the EU, will be most influenced by the number of votes UKIP can attract in 2014 and the threat to repeat any success in 2015 and then ultimately on the size of any majority in favour of exit, should an IN/OUT be held and won.

    It would seem that without UKIP none of this would be even a faint possibility. I might add that I am not a UKIP member, but it seems to me that you are asking them to jump a relatively distant fence when the electorate are still undecided at the water jump.

  5. 5 Duyfken 10/09/2013 at 3:03 pm

    I am sure AT is right in all that he (and Richard North similarly) says about and criticises UKIP/Farage. For me, Farage has provided a valuable service in promoting EUscepticism and having brought it or helped to bring it to public attention. The success of UKIP now gives concern to the Conservatives and others and it was Farage with his tub-thumping who largely achieved this. For this I am appreciative.

    But that, I know, does not mean he has the ability to lead a mainstream parliamentary party. The difficulty is that we have no alternative at this stage. Just for whom do I vote in the coming European elections and in the subsequent UK GE? None of the main 3 parties is worth considering so it just leaves UKIP or my not voting at all.

    If AT or others have any helpful suggestions. my thanks in advance.

  6. 6 Duyfken 10/09/2013 at 3:04 pm

    Sorry, I meant “AM”.

  7. 7 cosmic 10/09/2013 at 3:20 pm

    LeoSavantt,

    Things can be seen that way.

    However, the view you take depends on how much faith you have in Farage’s initial intent and then steadfastness to remain true to UKIPs primary purpose of leaving he EU.

  8. 8 Autonomous Mind 10/09/2013 at 3:30 pm

    I think Leo has put more strategic thought into one post than Farage has into one year of UKIP activity.

    People don’t seem to grasp that Farage’s priorities are Nigel Farage and money.

    Leo’s argument reminds me of the hundreds of comments on Conservative Home arguing Cameron was only pretending to be a social democrat Europhile and that once in power he would suddenly reveal his inner conservative. We all know what happened there. Why suppose Farage has any more depth than Cameron?

  9. 9 cosmic 10/09/2013 at 4:52 pm

    AM,

    Yes, I was thinking about Cameron the supposed eurosceptic wolf in europhile sheep’s clothing, playing his cards close to his chest. He turned out to be a sheep and a lot of us thought he was nothing else from the outset.

    Being a political party carries temptations and compromises.

    In UKIP’s case it was argued that if they got MEPs they’d ‘go native’ and there’s certainly an argument to be made for that.

    In the case of representation at Westminster, especially with no immediate prospect of power, there has to be the temptation to fit in with the social-democratic consensus and occupy the LibDem niche of being a general protest party – and letting the question of leaving the EU fade into the background.

  10. 10 Niall Warry 10/09/2013 at 8:14 pm

    Most UKIP supporters are I fear politically naive so it is not that they don’t care it is that they just simply don’t know or haven’t worked out what makes Nigel tick.

  11. 11 Nailer 10/09/2013 at 8:32 pm

    @Dufyken

    “…For me, Farage has provided a valuable service in promoting EUscepticism and having brought it or helped to bring it to public attention. The success of UKIP now gives concern to the Conservatives and others and it was Farage with his tub-thumping who largely achieved this…..”

    Well, you’re not wrong. Farage has, to an extent {promoted] EU-scepticism, but what has he done to advance it?

    Can you name a single crowning achievement of any UKIP MEP since 2009?

    No, neither can I.

    No MPs, some county councillors (unless disgraced and resigned), sabotaged mayoral and London Assembly elections… at what point do you wake up and realise it’s a personality cult?

  12. 12 Duyfken 10/09/2013 at 8:59 pm

    @Nailer

    Thanks for the response. I do not take issue with anything you have said but I still have no answer as to how I should vote in forthcoming elections – who else but UKIP?

  13. 13 cosmic 10/09/2013 at 10:22 pm

    @ Dufken

    I vote for them as by far the least worst remotely credible option, but I don’t believe in them as it were. They’re a political party and while we’re stuck with electing one team or another of dictators, there’s no reason to believe UKIP are immune to the forces which made LibLabCon what they are.

    Actually, I don’t even see LibLabCon as elected dictators, more like the current suit worn by the permanent government of civil service, local government, the EU, NGOs, QUANGOs etc., all untouched by elections every five years. The answer I’d say, is some measure of direct democracy where political parties are much reduced in their role, and we’d be far less likely to have the likes of Blair and Cameron taking very unpopular and far-reaching actions on a whim or for completely self-serving reasons.

    The other problem we have is the major players in the political party game having a gentlemens’ agreement not to address certain issues of wide concern, and then fighting over a middle-ground which they feel comfortable with. Is it heretical to suggest that UKIP could be drawn into this if they had enough tribal support?

  14. 14 cosmic 10/09/2013 at 10:30 pm

    @Nial Warry

    Most (enter political party) supporters are I fear politically naive so it is not that they don’t care it is that they just simply don’t know or haven’t worked out what makes (enter first name of leader) tick.

    Admittedly, we do expect far higher standards of UKIP, notionally the outsiders seeking radical change.

  15. 15 Niall Warry 10/09/2013 at 10:34 pm

    Dufyken don’t vote for any of them it only encourages them!!

  16. 16 Duyfken 11/09/2013 at 12:38 pm

    @cosmic and @Niall Warry

    Thanks for the (conflicting!) advice. I don’t like abstaining so it is UKIP then. The problem EUsceptics now have is how to get UKIP into proper shape but it’s a little like “Catch 22″ – few heavyweight political managers are likely to risk joining it in its present state. Farage may not want to move out of the driving-seat and I do not blame him, since there is no apparent competent successor available.

    The Harrogate Agenda has some value I’m sure, as are the views of others such as AM, but there seem to be so much distrust and back-biting amongst EUsceptics that I despair at finding one concerted entity which will carry the battle forward to success.

  17. 17 Nailer 11/09/2013 at 6:11 pm

    @Dufyken:

    Yes, I see your point, and I actually share your view. But it will be a protest vote and not a “substance” vote, for me. No political research – anyone who tries to do any in the party and submit it is considered a ‘troublemaker’ and chased out of the party for fear of stealing the limelight from Nigel. They have no policies – the current ones are a joke in comparison to those of the main parties.

    The “new” constitution and rule book stripped any remaining responsibility from anything outside of head office; there are 1. branches and 2. head office. Nothing in between.

    When was the last time a UKIP spokesman was wheeled out on the telly to counter the government’s position on anything? And who would they find who was competent or experienced enough?

    UKIP has a long way to go, so it need to start being a political party. It won’t get taken seriously until it drops this ‘personality cult’ image.

  18. 18 PMR 13/09/2013 at 9:34 am

    Just look at the long list of potential replacements of Farage marginalised and then forced out of UKIP in the last couple of years.
    Cambell Bannerman
    Nikki Sinclair
    Andrea Anderson
    Chris Pain
    Mike Nattrass
    Sked
    etc.
    If you wanted to block Brexit then take over the EUsceptic party from the inside how would you do it? Say all the right things, do all the wrong ones….


  1. 1 Britannia Radio » Brexit: in danger of losing the game…… Trackback on 10/09/2013 at 10:23 pm
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