In the last few weeks Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party have been ratcheting up their rhetoric attacking Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal – and the Conservatives – following the announcement no electoral pact has been reached between these two parties.
We at Get Britain Out have been considering our position in this General Election very carefully. While being committed to maintaining our role as a cross-party grassroots campaign, we need to recognise the current strategy of the Brexit Party to stand in every seat across England, Scotland and Wales, and their adamant rejection of Boris Johnson’s deal – while clearly not acknowledging any ongoing strategy – is not the way forward at this election. Mr Farage seems intent on dragging the PM to his knees to accept his own approach to Brexit – and this would be difficult for any politician or Prime Minister to accept in these circumstances.
With Remainers forming their own electoral pacts, it is vital the Brexiteer vote is not split.
While we agree the tweaked Theresa May’s deal proposed by Boris Johnson is definitely not perfect, with the clock ticking and with the deadline set by the EU of January 31st, serious improvements on May’s deal have been made – with many of the more contentious issues being moved from the legally-binding Withdrawal Agreement to the non-legally-binding Political Declaration.
The claim by Nigel Farage that the PM’s deal is 95% the same as May’s deal is extremely misleading. 5% of a 500-page document is a considerable change – especially on important issues within legal documents (even if Farage has got his calculations correctly down to a percentage point). However, when reading the documents side by side, the differences in tone are drastic – especially in the Political Declaration. Gone are the commitments to a Customs Union building on the Irish backstop, and instead there is a true commitment to a Free Trade Deal which allows the UK to seek its own trade policy.
You can see Get Britain Out’s own evaluations more simply here.
On fundamental issues like the Irish backstop, Defence, state aid and tax laws, there are radical changes – some of which have been completely removed from the legally-binding text altogether. Yes, issues – such as the ‘Level Playing Field’ – have simply been moved to the Political Declaration. However, these will be open to further negotiation when it comes to a Free Trade Deal – and importantly, these negotiations will be driven by the result of this General Election.
At no stage will Get Britain Out enable Boris Johnson to forget where his deal falls short, failings which can and must be corrected in phase 2 of the negotiations. In fact we have already written to the Prime Minister identifying the five key areas which he must push to renegotiate in any further talks with the EU. This was a letter signed by many thousands of our supporters.
However, while these problems are abundantly clear, such renegotiations will not be possible if Boris Johnson does not win a majority at the forthcoming General Election. This is not about compromising on what Brexiteers believe in, but instead seeing the political realities which will be in front of us. These are realities which – as Nigel Farage has already admitted – will not result in either the Brexit Party or the Conservatives winning a majority if his attempted manipulations of the voters succeed. If the Brexit Party cannot hope to win a majority, what do they want to achieve by standing in every seat, apart from potentially ending up with no Brexit at all? Talk of backing up the Conservatives in Parliament in the event of a hung parliament is clearly unrealistic; if we end up with the Labour Party winning, we will end up with Labour binning a real Brexit after the General Election.
It makes no sense for the Brexit Party to stand in seats across the country where a few hundred votes could swing the result towards Labour or the Liberal Democrats. For example the Brexit Party have selected a candidate in Esher and Walton to stand against the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab – a long-time committed Brexiteer – in a constituency which voted Remain. Seats like Raab’s are seats Brexiteers can ill afford to lose, regardless of any official pact between the parties. Surely the Brexit Party cannot think a Lib Dem MP – sneaking through the middle – would be better than a Brexiteer Conservative MP, even if he does support Boris Johnson’s deal?
Aside from some problematic locations where the Brexit Party are deciding to stand, Nigel Farage’s demands of the Prime Minister are flawed and doomed to fail. In demanding the PM abandons his Withdrawal Agreement completely and pushes to deliver only a Free Trade Deal based on the Political Declaration, this ignores many other vital issues and would make little sense. It is unrealistic to anticipate the EU would accept this. For any Trade Deal with the EU to succeed, their price would clearly be to sign up to the Withdrawal Agreement in some shape or form – even if it was somehow placed inside the terms of a Trade Deal.
It is no surprise Boris Johnson has rejected the offer from the Brexit Party, but this does not have to mean Nigel Farage should go nuclear and stand candidates against Conservatives in hundreds of seats. There are seats where the Brexit Party could stand and win – where the Conservatives have no chance without an electoral pact. However, it makes no sense for them to stand in areas where they stand no chance of victory – it would only serve to make Conservative seats vulnerable – seats which must be held for us to Leave the EU with a good future Trade Deal. We clearly want and need to Get Britain Out and win this final onslaught from the Remainers – as at the moment our heavily Remain Parliament has been intent on destroying Brexit – especially with the Remain Alliance taking shape. Mr Farage’s intentions may be well-meaning, but it may end up with him being the man who ends up destroying Brexit, rather than the man who helped the United Kingdom move towards a truly Global Britain where we are free of the control of the European Union.
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