By Stefan M. Kløvning
Britain, Brexit – Nigel Farage announced his return to British politics on Friday in a Telegraph article entitled “The time has come to teach the political class a lesson: I’m back fighting for a real Brexit,” where he pledged “to give Leave Means Leave my absolute and total support. I will help them to raise funds and will go back on the road to campaign once again.” In the article, he also labelled the Chequers statement as a “betrayal”, a document delineating Conservative PM Theresa May’s suggestions for the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Farage is especially known for his Euroscepticism, having left the Conservative party in 1992 after they signed the Maastricht Treaty, and becoming a founding member of the United Kingdom Independence Party. In 1999, he was elected as a Member of European Parliament (MEP) and was subsequently reelected in 2004, 2009 and 2014, causing countless controversies in the parliament through his numerous rants about the flaws of the EU. He summarized his views on the EU as follows:
Post-1949, there was some sensible ideas put together, namely, the Council of Europe. Let’s have a Europe where we sit down together, where we have a free-trade agreement, minimum standards on work, on the environment… We can do all of these things without a European Commission, without a European Parliament, and without a European Court of Justice. Yes, it’ll mean you’ll lose your job, Mr Barosso [11th President of the European Commission], but apart from that, why can’t we do things as mature democracies? Yes, I want you sacked Mr Schultz as well, I want you all fired. We can do those things, and that is a positive way forward. Taking away from people the ability to govern themselves, and transferring that power to the European Commission, we’re headed for a Europe of rebellion and violence. Let’s take the democratic route.
After 52% of Brits voted to leave the European Union in 2016, he spoke before the European Commission again, asserting “Isn’t it funny, that when I came here seventeen years ago, and I said that I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union, you all laughed at me! Well, I have to say, you’re not laughing now, are you?” Farage has thereby been perceived as having had a large impact on the results in 2016, ranked 2nd “most influential Right-winger” by the Telegraph in October 2013, and named “Briton of the Year” in 2014. After he resigned as leader of UKIP in 2016, he hasn’t been particularly influential in British politics, outside of his op-eds and podcast/radio show on London Broadcasting Corporation. In 2017, he also became a contributor on Fox News, where he additionally comments on American issues, promoting Trump and was in July one of the proponents of him earning the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring better relations between North- and South Korea. Yesterday, he asserted he’s coming back to British politics:
Over the last few months, and particularly since the Chequers betrayal, scores of people have stopped me in the street to ask: “When are you coming back?”
Well now you have your answer: I’m back.
Back in the game of British politics, ready to make an influence on Britain to move it back in the right direction for a “real” Brexit. But whither does this direction lead? What will his return entail for the future of Brexit?
Farage describes the organizers of Leave Means Leave, Richard Tice and John Longworth to be “principled businessmen” who see “Brexit as the ultimate opportunity to regain some national self-confidence, to restore our democracy and to make us all richer and more successful by going global. They want to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit that burns so brightly in millions of men and women.” On their website, they assert that “Unequivocally, Leave means leaving the Single Market, leaving the customs union and UK courts no longer being subservient to the European Court of Justice.” Chequers do not mean Brexit, they say, for its suggestions do not meet these criteria.
Leave Means Leave was established in July 2016 in the aftermath of the Brexit vote as a political pressure group campaigning and lobbying for “a clean Brexit.” “This week,” says Farage, “it declared plans to re-launch the referendum campaign up and down the country.” The founders explained on Thursday,
When we set up Leave Means Leave after the referendum, we thought it might be needed for six months. We hoped that we could trust the Government to do the job they had been instructed to do by the British people. People knew what they were voting for. They dismissed the ridiculous scaremongering of Project Fear and voted in the largest numbers ever to leave the EU.
None of us imagined that, two years on, we would have to refight the battle. We never dreamt that we would have to attack some desperate “Chequers” proposal from the Prime Minister, which led to the resignation of two of the most influential Brexit-supporting Cabinet ministers [David Davis and Boris Johnson]. None of us feared being let down by other Cabinet Brexiteers, who we thought we could trust. Today, they are trying to sell thin gruel to Brexit voters as if it were some sort of delicacy. It is a con, and must be exposed as such.
Crucially, this will be a nationwide effort, not an intellectual exercise from air-conditioned offices in London. We want to take our campaign to the people. So many ordinary voters feel let down by their MPs.
The next six months will determine the future direction of our country. It is nothing less than a Battle for Britain. Do we want to remain handcuffed to an outdated, protectionist bullying bureaucracy as a vassal state? Or do we want to be a bold, ambitious trading nation, retaking our rightful place on the global stage as a strong independent country, enjoying the significant economic benefits that flow from a proper Brexit?
With Farage’s “absolute and total support,” Leave Means Leave is sure to get a boost of influence considering his reach and reputation (for instance, he has 68 times as many followers on Twitter as them), but is the British public open to their message? According to the latest annual British Social Attitudes report by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen Social Research), the party most against “allowing free movement of people in return for free trade in the EU” is, unsurprisingly, UKIP, at 67%, but they also have a large minority of 40% in the Conservative Party to appeal to, though its leader was the architect of the Chequers Statement.
Leave Means Leave know their base, and what they stand for, but as they weren’t sufficient in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, is it reasonable to expect that things will now turn out differently? Is Farage the steroid they need to win the race for the future of Brexit, and can he make them sufficient for achieving this goal? Or will they again be overhauled by the political establishment they consider to be indifferent to the wishes of the British majority?
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