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

Remainiacs – a view from outside the bubble

If you are reading this  article, chances are you are a strong supporter of the UK leaving the EU. You were probably active during the recent referendum campaign and have been following every twist and turn of events since the June 23rd vote.

Your friends and family are probably fully aware of your passion for politics and often raise the subject of Brexit in conversation. You watch or listen to the news, read a newspaper and follow a few blogs on the internet. Something crops up about Brexit every day.  It is THE issue of our time.. perhaps.

…..or perhaps it’s time to step out of our bubble for a few minutes.

Less than a week after the Brexit vote, I had to go to London. As I walked down the Thames embankment what struck me was the normality of life. Such snippets of conversation as I caught revolved around all manner of topics but not the European Union. It hardly seemed like we had just seen a radical change to the whole future shape of our country.

And this is precisely the point – the EU has never been a big issue for voters. Ask anyone who has stood as a UKIP candidate in a General Election. It was always a big challenge to convince people on the doorsteps that our very future as a sovereign nation was at stake. A survey by YouGov, taken just over a year before the Brexit  vote, put “Europe” well down the list of voter priorities.

What is more, after four months of intensive campaigning, following Mr Cameron’s decision to  forced the EU to the top of the list,  27.79% of eligible voters  – nearly 13 million – didn’t cast their ballot. Remain and leave campaigners alike emphasised that this was the most important vote the electorate was ever likely to cast. Over a Quarter didn’t bother.

Even among those who did vote, many had an abysmal knowledge of what the EU project was actually about and certainly didn’t view it as a life and death issue. Of course, this was precisely Cameron’s strategy. A short campaign would work in his favour. As we know, his strategy failed. In spite of a campaign in which neither of the official organisations covered themselves with glory, the tireless dedication of rank-and-file leave groups up and down the country managed to convince enough of their fellow countrymen that the EU was sufficiently bad news that they should vote to leave it.

But now the vote is behind us, the level of interest in the EU among our countrymen has dropped dramatically. For most of them, whichever way they voted, the issue is behind them. In a recent conversation with an educated man, he told me that he was surprised that people were still working for organisations like the Campaign for an Independent Britain. He seemed to think we had already left the EU and was quite shocked when I told him otherwise.

The point I am making is that for all the talk of a second referendum, there is just no appetite in the country for going through it all again. John Major is living in a fanstasy world if he really believes he is somehow the “voice of the 48%.” A YouGov poll found that by almost two to one, the electorate believed that the result should stand and opposed a second referendum.  What is more, unlike the Danish Maastricht referendum and the Irish rejection of the Lisbon  Treaty, there is no pressure coming from Brussels.  We ned not therefore worry too much about the recent statement by Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, that she might support a second referendum.

This is not to say that we’re home and dry. There are malign forces seking to undermine Brexit. Thankfully, so far Mrs May has stood firm, but mischief makers like Richard Branson and Mark Carney would love to derail Bredit if they could.

Even within the government, Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, needs to be watched. He has recently claimed that  he is not using the UK’s military clout to get a better Brexit deal. Some informed opinion suggests that on the contrary, he wants to integrate us as closely as possible with the EU’s future defence strategy. This is not acceptable and we will keep you informed with any developments on this front.

In summary, it is clear that further campaigning needs to be focussed on informing and pressurising our MPs rather than on the general public. The better the deal we end up with, the more the guns of the hard-core remainiacs will be spiked and calls for a second referendum stifled. However,  we are still unclear as to what deal Mrs May is seeking,  while opinion among MPs  is divided on all manner of issues. Vigilance therefore remains the order of the day.  The country does not want a second referendum and we need to ensure they do not get one.

June’s result must be respected

The result we achieved on 23rd June 2016 was a key victory but it is clear that this was not the end of the war. There are still key obstacles to be overcome before we find ourselves fully disengaged from EU membership.

The first issue is to ensure that we all agree, at least broadly, on what our negotiating strategy should be. Here, a broad consensus has emerged. Starting with trade, unless there are massive and permanent –  and thus very unlikely – derogations, we will have to be outside the Single Market, if we are going to secure control of our own borders, to reduce very substantially our payments to the EU and to be outside the jurisdiction of the EU’s Luxembourg Court. Ideally, we should then combine this with a Free Trade deal with the rest of the EU, which would keep our existing trade relations in place more or less as they are at the moment.

There is a school of thought which says that we would be better to be outside the Single Market but in the European Economic Area (EEA). This might be easier to negotiate but it could still leave us with obligations on free movement of labour, payments and jurisdiction which nearly everyone who voted Leave would like to avoid. Being outside the EEA – but in the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) – would therefore be a better bet, but this could be more difficult to negotiate. To secure a deal along these preferred lines, therefore, we may well need to be willing to walk away altogether from free trade with the EU, falling back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariff levels which are actually quite low – averaging around 3%. UK willingness to do this, however, if push comes to shove, may concentrate minds on achieving a free trade deal, which would make much more sense for everyone, within the two year period stipulated by Article 50 in the Lisbon Treaty.

Sorting out our trade relationships with the EU would very probably be the most difficult part of our Brexit negotiations, but it would leave a large number of other areas where co-operating with other countries in Europe on the right terms would make sense. Here our objective should be to ensure that there is maximum continuity but on the basis of inter-governmental co-operation rather than the UK being part of the EU’s federal project. As co-operation in all these areas is in everyone’s mutual interest, hopefully, reaching agreement will not be too difficult.

Having set the scene on where we would like to be, how are we going to make sure that we get there? There are significant obstacles in the way.  There is a large majority – probably between 75% and 80% – of MPs who were not Leave supporters. Some of them – ignoring the clear referendum result – are threatening to derail negotiations by opposing them on principle rather than in detail, either by calling for a second referendum or by having reversing Brexit as part of their manifestos for the next general election.  Others are preparing to oppose details of negotiations in such a way that the effect will be the same.

These are dangerous tactics, however, for those who want to win elections.  The outcome of the recent EU referendum was a decisive vote for Brexit. Those who feel they have the right to overturn the biggest vote ever in the UK for any proposition put before the electorate do so at their peril. A recent poll showed that 69% of those questioned thought that the decision taken on the referendum should be respected whether or not they agreed with it and only 22% were against.  Voters are not likely to be happy with either political parties or individuals who fail to support the electorate’s clearly expressed view. Eurosceptics should make sure that those standing for election know this.