LEADING THE WAY OUT OF THE EU

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Monday 4 December 2019

Nigel Farage says he will put up 600 candidates to fight the general election. The Brexit Party leader wants to do “extraordinary” damage to Labour, taking advantage of the Eurosceptic backlash in the Labour heartlands. Farage, who will not stand himself but instead orchestrate the campaign, believes the current deal is “Brexit in name only”.

Unfortunately, from a Brexit point of view it it’s not as simple as the Brexit Party winning seats helping to fill out a strong Leave majority in Parliament. Nigel will of course be incredibly effective in taking votes off of Labour, but he will take them off the Tories too. A split in the vote could lead to a Corbyn government, that simply cannot happen. 

Leave.EU’s chairman, Arron Banks explored the situation we face in an Express op-ed yesterday. 

“I would prefer a clean-break Brexit and then look for a free trade deal once we have recovered our leverage with the EU,” wrote Banks.  

“However, I fear if we don’t leave the EU soon it will never happen. We reluctantly backed the Boris deal on the basis that we would leave the EU and after an election he would win a large majority and ultimately be in a stronger position to go into the next phase of negotiations. 

“I don’t buy Nigel’s position that it’s a binding international treaty that can’t be changed. Parliament proved it is sovereign when it passed the Benn act in 24 hours at! 

Indeed it did. The media made great play of Banks’ intervention, the first time he has made a public departure from the position of his good friend Farage. 

With a fellow former Ukipper questioning his strategy, Farage is now being admonished by Tory Brexiteers. The ERG’s Steve Baker has made the same case, accusing Farage of setting out to create a “weak and indecisive” hung parliament. Nigel risks becoming “the man who threw away Brexit,” warns the nearest thing the Tories have to Farage. 

Baker wasn’t done there, telling the Telegraph: “Nigel Farage’s critique [of the Brexit deal] is wrong. Whilst there are some compromises people like me have to swallow, Boris’s deal is a path to a great future.” 

As a Tory, Baker is naturally inclined to dig in. He backed Boris’s deal enthusiastically, in spite of its many flaws. Farage has responded by pledging to field candidates across the country unless Boris abandons the deal. That simply isn’t going to happen. Admittedly, the Brexit Party leader pitched his position as an opening gambit, very much open to watering it down, his follow-up is mooted to be a demand that Boris stick to No Deal at the end of the implementation period. More reasonable, but unfortunately the Tories beat them to it. Over the weekend they regretably pledged to take No Deal off the table now that a better arrangement has been made with Brussels. Having taken up the position, they won’t be rowing back. 

If anyone is to break the impasse, it’s the the President of the United States. Yesterday, Donald Trump once again expressed his support for a patriotic alliance. 

Trump is an important feature of this election. Like him or loath him, he’ll be sticking around, Joe Biden was his only serious challenger for the White House, now he’s finished Trump is only threatened by Elizabeth Warren, who is not a threat.

Voters on this side of the Atlantic will recognise the importance of good relations with Washington. Jeremy Corbyn will sever them immediatly, requiring him to establish ties with Cuba and Venezuala. Failing that, he’ll go back to Brussels to pretend all is forgotten, or at least that’s what a growing number of Labour MPs want. Thankfully, a reality check has been delivered by the trade unions

Writing in the New Statesman, TU leaders Len McCluskey and Dave Whelan make it clear Labour cannot be seen to be a 100% Remain party like the Liberal Democrats. 

“Labour’s policy is scarcely going to maintain credibility if the very shadow cabinet members who would, in government, be responsible for negotiating a departure deal with the EU announce now that they will campaign for its public rejection.” 

“How is the EU supposed to take such an approach seriously? More importantly, how will British voters take it seriously?,” they write. 

Of course, they’d be better off sticking with the pro-Brexit commitment from 2017 that saw them not too far away from getting a majority. The Remain campaign may be strong, but it’s nowehre near powerful enough to help the Lib Dems get more than 70 seats. The SNP are mercifully restrained by the border. 

But Labour and logic aren’t obvious bedfellows. The Tories and the Brexit Party are however.