Since the Referendum, the attack on Brexit has been tenacious and sustained, with Leave supporters forced onto the defensive. The Remain strategy is many-sided, well-funded, and aimed at different social constituencies. It includes:
- Court actions, intended as delaying tactics in Parliament, or indefinite postponement.
- Project Fear continued. Heavy duty Remainers still issue warnings about the negative economic effects of Brexit, despite evidence to the contrary.
- A weekly pro-EU newspaper, ‘The New European’.
- A Glastonbury-style event over the August bank holiday, organised by pro-EU campaign Best for Britain, to further politicise the young. The aim, in the event of another snap General Election, is to overturn the Referendum result.
- Money-raising events to attract wealthy donors and businesses.
- New anti-Brexit political parties and campaign groups, including: Renew, which intends to ramp up pressure on Brexit MPs in pro-EU constituencies; a student campaign Our Future, Our Choice, which wants a referendum on the final deal; Best for Britain, with a 6-week advertising blitz targeting the Midlands and the north, funded by a £400,000 donation from George Soros; and a £1 million campaign for a Second Referendum.
- Negative public statements and research on Brexit by various institutions and ‘experts’, intended to undermine public confidence in the Leave vote.
- In collusion with the EU, ridicule and attacks on the Prime Minister and Brexit MPs.
- Cross-party alliances in Parliament between Remainers.
- A Campaign Bus touring the country, ‘Brexit: Is it worth it?’
- And now ‘The People’s Vote’ (so-called) for a Referendum on the final deal…
Meanwhile, across the floor, Labour are biding their time, preparing the ground by community organising, membership growth, targeting mainly Conservative-held seats with small majorities, and likely de-selection of any sitting MPs and councillors at the next elections who don’t wholly support the leadership. Policies are being tweaked to resolve internal conflict over Brexit between different sectors such as youth, the traditional working class, community groups, and older activists from the 1970s and ‘80s. For example, policy on the/a customs union and the single market is deliberately ambiguous in order to have the widest appeal.
Labour says it wants a General Election rather than another Referendum. They could attempt to bring down the Government before the next General Election (due 2022), but may prefer to wait until we are out of the EU, leaving the hard negotiating work to the Tories, so that recriminations and blame for a less than satisfactory outcome are not laid at Labour’s door, and avoiding EU restrictions on their plans for radical economic reform. But, holding to the ambiguity over Brexit which served the Party well in the last General Election, they have not ruled out supporting a second Referendum on the final deal.
Playing politics, the party’s ‘softer’ line is “weaponising” Brexit with a special appeal to the 3 million EU citizens in the UK, especially in London, who can vote in local elections.
In light of all this, what should UKIP do?
The over-riding question since the Referendum is: what is the political vision and purpose of UKIP now?
In the immediate future, Brexit is our absolute priority. Observing that Remainers are trying to thwart the Referendum result, UKIP should return to its roots as a campaigning party. Other parties aim for power, either in government or for a toehold on power. But UKIP is different; unique, even. We should not be limited by the traditional model of party politics. Historically, we cross the boundary between campaign and electoral party. So we should be flexible and adapt to the needs of the hour, working in extra-parliamentary ways suited to the interests and concerns of each section of the population, not bound to electoral politics.
We must now anticipate what could happen in the coming period.
What’s coming down the line?
- The final deal could be rejected by Parliament. It is not clear what would happen next. Do we leave without a deal? Would Parliament or government decide? Or must we simply remain in the EU?
- A second Referendum could be called, this time on the terms of the final deal.
- With no majority in Parliament, the government could collapse, forcing a general election.
UKIP’s immediate work, therefore, should be to counteract Remainer tactics. We need a practical plan of action, beginning immediately after 3rd May, which all branches can knuckle down to straight away, even those with very few members – combined with a vigorous membership campaign. Campaigning should be targeted, meeting people on their own ground and answering their concerns. Good literature is needed, with facts and arguments, not slogans and rhetoric, and relevant to the different social groups, especially youth, who have been fed misinformation and deceived by the line that Brexit ‘robs them of their future’.
Our aim should be to reaffirm confidence in Brexit and increase support for it – to reinforce and toughen up the Leave vote, confident that the British people took the right decision in voting ‘Leave’.
This is why UKIP is needed.