NO! NO! NO!

Listen to the clip attached to this article. Pinch yourself. Is it real? Here we have Nigel Farage, the man who friend and foe alike acknowledge played a significant role in securing the historic vote to leave the EU over eighteen months ago, calling for a second referendum.

Yes, I could hardly believe it. The author of the article suspects an ulterior motive – in other words, that Nigel is happier when he has something to snipe about from the sidelines. Nigel himself offers a much more straightforward reason for his “conversion” – winning a second referendum would finally shut up the likes of Blair and Clegg for good. Perhaps – but this argument is flawed for several reasons.

Firstly and most importantly, there is the practical issue of the ongoing Brexit talks. Our team needs the distraction of a second referendum like it needs a hole in the head.  We are less than 15 months away from Brexit day and there is a huge amount which has to be sorted out before then. As for groups like CIB, rather than gearing up for a second referendum, our energies should be devoted instead to campaigning for a change of course from the current plan for a transitional deal which, as we have pointed out, is most unsatisfactory as it stands.

Secondly, a second referendum would undermine the legitimacy of the first one. The question was simple – Should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU? 51.9% of those who voted, in other words, 17,410,742 voters, voted to leave. The vast majority of them knew what they were doing and while a few have changed their minds, most people have accepted the result.  The Government triggered Article 50 and is pushing through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill on the strength of the result. It was the biggest democratic exercise in our nation’s political history. More people voted to leave the EU than have ever voted for anything else. The result must stand.

Thirdly, who wants to go through that gruelling campaign again?  When I look back to 2016, I will never forget the euphoria of that momentous day when the result was declared, but neither will I forget the preceding months, including taking part in six debates in seven days. Those late nights, the travelling, the thousands of e-mails, the phone calls. It was absolutely incessant. From the day when Cameron announced the date of the referendum until the result was announced, it completely took over my life and the life of thousands of many activists up and down the country. I doubt if there are many people on either side of the  Brexit debate who are keen on a repeat performance.

Fourthly, it would reopen a lot of old wounds. Nigel’s opinions, sadly, come across as the view of someone enclosed in the Westminster bubble. The average man or woman in the street was never that interested in the European Union and I suspect that there are many people who now switch off whenever Brexit is mentioned in the news, especially as it is all getting very technical. Let’s face is – some of us who were active in the campaign are fed up with it all and can’t wait for Brexit to be done and dusted. To repeat a point which was made above, most people, whichever way they voted, have accepted the result and even some remain voters, rather than moping,  are considering the opportunities Brexit will bring. Apart from some of our universities and parts of London and Scotland,  animosity over Brexit has been pretty short-lived. We have moved on.  Who cares about Nick Clegg, let alone Tony Blair?  The reason their bleating is getting more desperate in tone is that every day which passes is a day closer  to the day when we finally leave the EU and everything for which they have stood politically will come crashing to the ground.

One reason why we can be confident that Nigel’s call for a second referendum will fall flat is that the Conservative Party, like the country as a whole, has no desire to reopen old wounds. Last June’s election result was a shock to the system and it has concentrated minds powerfully. Apart from the real headbangers like Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry, most Tory MPs know that their survival depends on standing together and delivering a successful Brexit. A second referendum will do nothing for their party’s cause. Furthermore, considering the bad blood between Leave.eu, in which  Nigel was prominent, on the one hand and Vote.leave, which was the preferred leave campaign of most leave-supporting Conservative MPs, on the other, there will be little enthusiasm among any Tories for Nigel to be calling the shots on Brexit.

So while many of us share his desire to see Clegg, Blair & Co silenced once and for all, a second referendum is not the answer. Thank you for all you did, Nigel, but as Mrs Thatcher would have said, NO, NO, NO!

  Photo by Michael Vadon

The parallel universe next door

For anyone wanting to take the EU’s temperature, the annual “State of the Union” address by the President of the European Commission is always a helpful speech to study. Anyone wanting to read the full 6,130 words of Jean-Claude Juncker’s lengthy talk can do so here.

However, most of us will only want a brief summary. As far as Brexit is concerned, Juncker had very little to say. He called it “a very sad and tragic moment,” adding “We will always regret it.” The text of the speech does not include the phrase “and you will regret it soon”, although this extract from the speech shows that he clearly said these words (in French) and also added that Brexit isn’t the future of Europe.

Will we regret it? On the basis of the rest of the speech, I think not. Open Europe, hardly a bastion of withdrawalism in pre-referendum days says that the speech is “likely to test the limits of what EU citizens or even EU leaders might support. Juncker admitted that 2016 was “a year  that shook our very foundations” – in other words, a crisis. What is the classic EU solution for any crisis? More Europe, and yes, this is exactly what he is proposing:- an increase in qualified majority voting – or to put it another way, the removal of national vetoes – in foreign policy decisions and in maters of taxation, a European Finance minister  and elections for the European Parliament featuring trans-national rather than national lists. Treaty change is “inevitable” at some point, he added, but in the meanwhile, use should be made of the so-called “passerelle” clauses in the existing treaties which allow qualified majority voting to be extended without treaty amendment. Juncker does not want a two-speed Europe, but by stating that the Parliament of the €urozone is the European Parliament, he is forcing non-€urozone countries either to join the Single Currency or accept second class status.

It is hardly surprising that Pieter Cleppe of Open Europe says that “This was not a great speech for those hoping the European Commission would see Brexit as the moment to take stock and reconnect with those across Europe who feel that the EU has over-reached.” Reaction from the UK has been more scathing. Diane James, formerly a UKIP MEP but now sitting as an independent, wrote a scathing article for City AM which pours scorn on the upbeat assessment of the EU’s current state by Mr Juncker. ” I can sum up the “state of the Union” in one word: dismal.” She points out that 66 per cent of Europeans stated in a recent survey that they were dissatisfied by the direction being taken by Brussels. The EU may be putting pressure on us to try to stop Brexit, or at lest to water it down, but many citizens in EU-27 are hardly happy bunnies and Juncker’s speech will have done nothing to make them feel better.  The powers-that-be in Brussels seem to be living in a parallel universe from most ordinary people.

Nigel Farage was even more scathing in his response to Juncker’s speech when addressing the European Parliament. “All I can say is Thank God we’re leaving,” he said. Lord Stoddart, a former President of CIB, was equally dismissive, calling Juncker’s vision of the EU as a “nightmare”.

Indeed. Juncker’s speech will have reminded many of us of exactly why we campaigned for years – indeed, in some cases, decades – to extricate our country from the EU. Given that there are still many tensions between the member states simmering beneath the surface, Juncker’s speech has, if anything, made it more likely that another country may well follow us out of the door.

 

Donald Trump, Brexit and the EU

As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard pointed out shortly before June 23rd, the European Union was always an American project. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) devoted considerable money and effort to persuading the UK to join the project and then, two years after our accession, to ensuring that we stayed in when the first referendum was held. In this year’s campaign, President Obama did not need much persuasion to come to David Cameron’s aid and support the remain camp, although his threat that we would be “at the back of the queue” for any future trade deal with the USA rather backfired.

So what, if any, will be the implications for the Brexit process of the USA electing a President who spoke most enthusiastically about our decision to leave the EU at the time, calling it a “great thing” and  has recently referred to his victory as “Brexit Plus Plus Plus“?

On the face of it, it looks like we will have a major leader firmly backing our decision to leave the EU. We can presume that a President Hillary Clinton, whose comments on Brexit were much less enthusiastic, would not have done much to help us with Brexit, but will President Trump retain the enthusiasm he showed for Brexit on the campaign trail once he enters the White House?

It’s not that simple. Mr Trump has been called all manner of things, some of them not very pleasant, but “policy wonk” is not one of them. He is far stronger on rhetoric than detail and has had no experience of public office before – the first ever US President who has neither served in the military nor Congress.

He will therefore be very dependent on a team of advisors. Furthermore, the checks and balances of the US Constitution do not give him untrammelled power. At a personal level, even if he retains the links he has forged with UKIP’s Nigel Farage, this does is no guarantee that US foreign policy will shift decisively to favour and support Brexit.

The Trump campaign emphasised its commitment to rebuild the US manufacturing sector by repatriating outsourced jobs. Mr Trump also criticised a number of free trade deals, including the recently-signed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. On the face of it, the likelihood of TTIP, the US-EU Free  Trade agreement, ever being signed off looks pretty remote.

Even here, however, this summary of Mr Trump’s statements on Free Trade, largely made on the hoof, does not amount to anything resembling a detailed and consistent policy position. As far as Brexit is concerned, therefore, we can go no further than to say that he  will probably be more supportive of Brexit than his predecessor has been or Mrs Clinton would have been, but it would be premature to assume anything more.

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Fishing for Leave bests Geldof’s motley crew

Earlier this year, the Campaign for Independent Britain published a booklet by John Ashworth of Restore Britain’s Fish entitled The Betrayal of Britain’s Fishing to the European Union. It was based on a series of articles which appeared on our website a couple of months earlier.

John, who spent his entire working life in the fishing industry, has been advising the Fishing for Leave group, who were organising a big demonstration to highlight the damage which the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy has done to our fishing industry.  Yesterday was their big day. A flotilla of fishing boats from several parts of the UK assembled at Southend at 5AM to sail up the Thames. They arrived at Tower Bridge (which had to be raised to accommodate some of the larger larger Scottish vessels) at 10AM.  It was a very moving moment when the fishing boats appeared, some of which had travelled hundreds of miles to make their point about how the iniquitous CFP has damaged their livelihood.

After mooring the larger boats by HMS Belfast, seven smaller boats, headed by a contingent from Ramsgate, sailed off via London Bridge to Westminster to make their protest outside the Houses of Parliament.  Their presence would have made David Cameron’s statement at Prime Minister’s Question Time (which was going on at the time) that the UK’s fishing industry was “much better off today than it was five years ago” ring very hollow.

There was a good crowd on London Bridge as the boats sailed past while Westminster Bridge had something of a carnival atmosphere as hundreds of people jammed the pavement to show their support for our fishermen. John had travelled down from his home in Yorkshire with a suitcase full copies of the booklet, which were all received gladly, both by passers-by and fishermen’s groups who were part of the crowd. As an East Sussex resident, I was particularly pleased to meet a group of Hastings fishermen who enthusiastically accepted a few  copies to take back with them. “This booklet will make you very angry, ” I warned them!

Besides the UK press, a considerable number of  foreign radio and TV stations were present. Arron Brown, the Scottish fisherman who had organised the event, was inundated with request for interviews and John Ashworth was interviewed by TV channels from  Sweden, France and Russia. Danish and Polish press teams were also present. They would all have come away under no illusions about our passion to leave the EU and in particular, the depth of support we feel for our fishermen.

Of course, those of us watching from the shoreline were only partly aware of the shenanigans going on with Bob Geldof’s pro-remain counter-demonstration. Even as the first boats passed under Tower Bridge, a few little dinghies flying their “in” flags could be seen bobbing around between the fishing boats. I can’t claim to be unbiased, but they really looked pathetic. Quite frankly, it was an insult to people who work so hard for their living in very adverse conditions. I had the chance to  spend a few minutes on board one of the larger vessels which had come down from the North East of Scotland and was made very welcome by the crew, but even without being given a full conducted tour of the boat, it was obvious that this was no luxury craft as far as accommodation was concerned.

The showdown between Geldof’s boat and that carrying Nigel Farage and Kate Hoey likewise did nothing to enhance the “remain” cause. One could not but consider the white flags they waved saying “In” looked like a flag of surrender. I couldn’t make out what the cacophony blasted out from his vessel was all about. Only by reading the press coverage of the event afterwards did I discover that it was a 1960s song which I had never heard of, entitled  “In with the In Crowd” and quite frankly, I don’t think from what I heard yesterday that my previous ignorance about this musical masterpiece has been any great loss.

A correspondent informed me this morning that the skipper of the vessel which Geldof hired may face prosecution. Certainly, their behaviour, in particular making rude gestures at Mr Farage, won them few friends. Owen Bennett, a reporter who saw things close at hand, reported thatOne man on a fishing boat was almost shaking with anger as he shouted across to us how the quota system was destroying his industry. He didn’t want to be lectured by Geldof, who seemed more intent on calling Nigel Farage a w***** than expressing a genuine interest in the fishing industry.

And this is what has wrong-footed the Remain campaign. Geldof and the like fail to appreciate that, in John Mills’ words, “The EU may work for the metropolitan élite – but it doesn’t for most working people.” Our fishermen yesterday illustrated this truth in a particularly graphic  and moving way. It was a privilege to have been there to support them.

The report of yesterday’s events on the Fishing for Leave website is well worth reading.

The Clyde demonstration planned for this morning has been cancelled as a mark of respect for the murdered MP Jo Cox. Fishing For Leave has stated on its website that it was not in the interest of public safety to proceed with the protest in the Clyde following ‘viable threats’ from Remain campaigners who claimed there would be “Armageddon” at the demonstration.

Grassroots out London Launch

Following the success of GO’s recent public meeting in Manchester, GO’s next location will be London.

Taking place at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster, Broad Sanctuary, London SW1P 3EE, Co-Founders Peter Bone MP, Kate Hoey MP and Tom Pursglove MP will be joined by speakers including David Davis MP and Nigel Farage MEP, with more MPs and MEPs from across the political spectrum to be announced.

Doors open at 5.30pm and the event runs between 7pm and 9pm.

Tickets are available via the hotline: 0333 666 3366, or online from  www.ticketsource.co.uk
(tickets are free but there is a £1.50 service charge).