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Theresa May is going if not gone. Her imminent exit has triggered a ludicrous leadership contest. More than ten candidates have put themselves forward. The winning contender will inherit a commitment to EU withdrawal in tatters. Three years on from the historic referendum, Britain is still in the European Union with no clear sign of a democratic departure happening soon. A deal has been agreed with European leaders, but it is designed to keep Britain exactly where it is, chained to the European Union, her phenomenal potential untapped.

“This is a great country”, assured Donald Trump during his state visit. You won’t hear many in Westminster saying that. To do so would imply Britain can succeed out of the EU, but with so many MPs hellbent on a second referendum, the prevailing interest is in doing Britain down. We can only prosper in the EU, they argue. What tosh.

The toxicity of Mrs May’s withdrawal treaty killed her dismal premiership. Leading a minority government divided over British independence and propped up by the patriotic DUP in Northern Ireland Mrs May was unable to exert any kind of authority, the little room for manoeuvre she had was immediately squandered, such was her inadequacy.

Once lauded as the “bloody difficult woman” destined to take on and defeat Brussels at the negotiating table, May – who voted Remain – was found out at the 2017 general election, which reaffirmed the public’s commitment to leaving the EU. 82% of MPs were elected on pro-Brexit manifestos. It all went downhill from there.

Another Remain Leader?

Unless a real Brexiteer succeeds Mrs May, the script is unlikely to change. None of the front runners have shown a clear preference for a sovereign, “No Deal” Brexit. Environment secretary Michael Gove is content with delaying. Gove campaigned for Leave during the 2016 EU referendum but has shown little appetite for independence since and is likely to be used as a foil to stop Boris Johnson from making it through to the final run-off to Conservative Party members – strong echoes of 2016, when Gove ran against Boris solely to stop him from becoming prime minister.

Boris’s Brexit credentials are stronger. Jacob Rees-Mogg and Andrew Bridgen both back him, to name but two. “There is a very real choice between getting Brexit done and the potential extinction of this great party – but I believe I can take on Farage and win back the voters being won over by him,” Boris told pro-EU MPs at a recent hustings. He is right to be fearful of the Brexit leader. 

Tory activists are hungry for Britain to leave the EU. Conservative MPs know the party will go into meltdown if members are not given the final choice, which was not the case when May was made leader by default in July 2016. One of the contenders needs to be a Brexiteer. Getting a fake leaver like Gove on the final ticket is the obvious strategy for Tory MPs, most of whom voted Remain, to partially satisfy the party faithful while keeping a leash on ambitions to actually leave the EU.

The former mayor of London has vowed to take Britain out of the EU by the end of October. However it would be unwise to anticipate No Deal under Boris, he is a mainstream politician, more likely to rebrand May’s deal as “a new way forward” – the EU’s condition for an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period – than do right by the 17.4m. Like Gove, Boris knows he must court the attention of the many Remainer MPs who will not countenance leaving the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms, aka No Deal.

Boris and his fellow candidates’ objective is clear: get withdrawal done with as soon as possible, leaving as much time as possible to reassemble the party in order to shatter Jeremy Corbyn’s equally divided Labour Party and figure out how to deal with the Brexit Party in time for the 2022 election. Honouring the nation’s democratic destiny isn’t Conservatives priority, it is the party that comes first.

The Brexit Party

Nigel Farage’s new outfit are professional, united and clear in their intentions. They want to see democracy delivered. Britain should get out of the EU as soon as possible. As things stand, the route out under the safety net of the WTO is the only option.

Within just six weeks of launching in April 2019, the Brexit Party stormed to victory at the European elections, scooping up 31% of the vote and 29 seats, a tally unbeaten across Europe. Parties with standing manifesto commitments to leaving the EU won 57% of the vote. The big losers were the Conservatives who managed to retain only 4 MPs, losing 15. Their vote share, just 9%.

The message from the Euros: the public wants a clear, bold direction. Judging by the thin spin discharging from the Tory leadership contest, it is a lesson that will not be learnt. The Brexit Party is here to stay, at their helm is that rare thing in the 21st Century, a real leader.

To stay informed over this crucial period,  ensure to follow Leave.EU’s Twitter account and Brexit Brunch, our weekday morning update.


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