24 November 2015
Exclusive The two campaigns – Leave.EU and Vote Leave – have been compared to the “Judean People’s Front” and the “People’s Front of Judea” from the Monty Python film ‘Life of Brian’
One of the two anti-European Union referendum campaigns has started merger talks aimed at creating a single campaign ahead of the in/out vote on Britain’s EU membership.
The talks were initiated late last week by Arron Banks, the millionaire founder of the Leave.EU campaign, in a letter to Matthew Elliott, the campaign director of the Vote Leave campaign.
Mr Elliott is understood to have referred the matter to the campaign’s board, which is due to meet on Tuesday, in consultation with its MP and business supporters.
The fact that there are two campaigns with similar names – Leave.EU and Vote Leave – fighting for the same cause has led to critics in Westminster to compare them to the “Judean People’s Front” and the “People’s Front of Judea” from the Monty Python film “Life of Brian”
Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, and Kate Hoey MP, co-chairman of the Labour Leave campaign group, are supportive of the merger talks to take on the single “in” campaign – Britain Stronger in Europe.
Mr Farage said: “This is very good news indeed. All anti-EU voices must come together. This is exactly what Ukip’s four million voters would want and I will do whatever I can to help make it happen.”
Ms Hoey added: “This is not going to happen overnight but my personal view is it is crazy not having one campaign. We don’t want egos from either side stopping that happen.
“We will never be forgive by the public if there is not a united Leave campaign by the time it comes to registering and I am confident this will happen even some of us may have to knock a few heads together.”
Mr Farage described the approach as “significant” and said if the in/out referendum – which must be held by the end of 2017 – is not held until next Autumn the Leave.EU campaign would have signed up one million supporters.
The Leave.EU campaign has signed up high profile already boasts the support of 300,000 members of the public and has spent £2million on its campaign since August.
In his letter, which adopts a deliberately conciliatory tone, Mr Banks said: “In terms of uniting Leave.eu and Vote Leave we have no prior conditions and believe that discussions should now take place that reflect the complementary strengths that the two organisations enjoy.
“I have a simple view of life and this is my unequivocal message moving forward – if you want to leave the EU, you are on our side. We should be one winning team.”
He added: “However, the chances of accomplishing the historic victory that all Eurosceptics, of whatever hue, are yearning to achieve are being damaged.
“Rather than having one consolidated Leave campaign, we have two Leave organisations. This can only help the ‘in Campaign’ and the forces that rage against us.
“We have two campaigns replicating similar staffing at great expense and duplicated campaign structures that are vying for attention with the media.
“Since our respective campaigns have launched, there have been times when our respective competitive spirit has spilled over the top, which was perhaps inevitable, given the potential competition for the designation.”
The letter was copied to scores of Eurosceptic MPs. A spokesman for Vote Leave said declined to comment on the letter or the timing of the campaign group’s next board meeting.
However a source said that the campaign’s major donors and supporters “do not feel they can work with Arron Banks” because of some of his personal criticism he has levelled at the rival campaign.
This includes branding Ukip MP Douglas Carswell “borderline autistic, with some mental illness attached” in a row on the margins of September’s Ukip conference.