Archive for the ‘Brexit Party’ Category

Hopes of clean break with EU are nonsense, says ex-Brexit official

A no-deal exit would trigger complex negotiations, argues former top DexEU civil servant

Claiming a no-deal Brexit represents a clean break with the European Union is “nonsensical”, according to Philip Rycroft, the former permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the EU.

Boris Johnson has promised to extricate the UK from the EU on 31 October “come what may” – and has hinted that he could try to get around legislation mandating him to request a Brexit delay.

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Nigel Farage won’t be allowed anywhere near government, say Tories

Senior Tories rebuff Brexit party leader’s offer of no-deal election pact

The Brexit party’s leader, Nigel Farage, has been heavily criticised by Boris Johnson’s team as “not fit and proper” in an outright rejection of his offer of a pre-election, no-deal Brexit pact.

Farage offered to help the embattled prime minister secure a majority at a snap general election, on the proviso he dropped plans to renegotiate the Brexit withdrawal agreement and the backstop arrangement on the Northern Irish border.

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Boris Johnson still ahead in the polls – but by how much?

Surveys at end of last week suggest election outcomes could range from Tory landslide to hung parliament

It may have been one of the most turbulent weeks endured by a prime minister in modern Westminster history, but polling suggests Boris Johnson remains on top – with one important caveat: nobody can agree by how much.

A crop of polls taken at the end of last week – during which the prime minister was defeated in the Commons and lost the support of his own brother, Jo, left the Conservatives anywhere between three and 14 points ahead of Labour.

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Sajid Javid refuses to rule out Tory deal with Nigel Farage

Chancellor evades question over possible election agreement with Brexit party

The chancellor, Sajid Javid, has failed to rule out a Conservative alliance with Nigel Farage’s Brexit party at a general election.

He told the BBC that the Tories did not need an electoral alliance but did not categorically deny that they might need to work with Farage, whose party took close to half of the UK’s seats at the European elections in May.

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Brexit party: Farage seeks election pact with Conservatives

Nigel Farage says if Brexit party is given free run in Labour heartlands, it will not contest seats where it might split leave voters away from Tories

The Brexit party should be given a free run at targeting traditional Labour heartlands in the North, Midlands and Wales by the Conservatives as part of an electoral pact, its leader, Nigel Farage said.

Farage, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, said the offer of a non-aggression pact was “100% sincere” and would help return the prime minister, Boris Johnson, to Downing Street.

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The Guardian view on Boris Johnson’s cunning plan: winning by resigning | Editorial

The prime minister sees a route to a hard Brexit by resigning and forcing opponents to answer the question they have yet to find an answer for: who leads the rebel alliance?

Perhaps the strangest unintended consequence of Boris Johnson’s decision to seek a snap election is that Jeremy Corbyn could be received at this month’s Labour party conference as the country’s prime minister. This would be quite a role reversal for the pair of duelling politicians. Mr Johnson’s misplaced optimism in his powers of persuasion would have meant that he risks being, at some 48 days, the shortest-lived occupant of No 10. A leftwing firebrand would have replaced him. No one would be more surprised than Mr Corbyn, who did not believe he could even be leader of the Labour party when he ran for the job in 2015.

This outcome is unlikely but not impossible. The reason it has become so is Mr Johnson’s rash and unwise pledge in front of the TV cameras not to request in any circumstances an extension to European Union membership beyond the current date of departure on 31 October. Britain would leave the EU by then, “do or die”. With a cabinet in thrall to a ruinous hard-Brexit agenda and negotiations for a new withdrawal agreement with Brussels going nowhere, Mr Johnson is prepared to risk the country’s economic stability by crashing out of the EU. This has been too much for a large chunk of moderate Tories who have either been hounded out of the Conservative party or decided, like Mr Johnson’s younger brother, that they did not want to be footsoldiers in a no-deal revolution.

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Will Nigel Farage seek an electoral pact with Boris Johnson?

Ben Margulies outlines the potential incentives of an electoral alliance between the Brexit Party and the Conservatives for Nigel Farage.

Boris Johnson has demonstrated a willingness, if not an outright preference, for a no-deal Brexit. His decision to prorogue Parliament to limit its chances to legislate against that possibility may constitute a credible warning that he is willing to cross the cliff edge that Theresa May would not. This may not align with the national interest, but it does move the Conservatives closer to the preferences of the Brexit Party and its leader, Nigel Farage MEP.

Unsurprisingly, there has been talk about Farage’s party forming an electoral pact with the Conservatives to avoid a split in the Brexit vote and ensure Britain’s departure from the EU. Peter Kellner discussed this eventuality in The Guardian in July. In September, Guido Fawkes reported that the Brexit Party would enter into a ‘non-aggression pact Leave Alliance’ on the condition that ‘Boris Johnson commits to an unambiguous, No Deal Brexit’. This mirrors an earlier statement by Farage that he would ‘work in tandem’ with the Conservatives for a ‘clean Brexit’. This scenario is popular among Conservative members – 65% back the idea, according to YouGov. Given that the Brexit Party lacks any internal democratic structures or members, Farage need not worry about internal polls in making his decision about a pact, though he may see some defections from his corps of office-holders.

Kellner argues that such a pact would do the Brexit Party little good. The Conservatives would be unlikely to actually surrender many winnable seats; at best, it would give the Brexit Party seats which are safe for Labour. Though the Brexit Party could win these seats as outsiders, as they almost won Peterborough, it is less likely they could do so as allies of the Conservatives. As Tom Quinn points out, a formal alliance would antagonize Labour voters who might vote for a stand-alone Brexit Party candidate, but not a Conservative Party ally. The Brexit Party would lose overall votes and momentum, win few or no MPs, and probably wither as UKIP did.

Kellner is probably right regarding the incentives facing the Brexit Party. However, these are not the same incentives as those facing Nigel Farage, and those incentives might matter more.

Political scientists often argue that political actors are motivated by one or more of three concerns – office, policy and votes. That is, they either want to hold public office and salaries; enact favoured policies; and/or win votes. These interact and influence each other, but they can also produce trade-offs. Nick Clegg traded policies for office, and lost votes. This framework is often used to describe why parties form alliances, or coalition governments.

For the Brexit Party, Kellner argues, an electoral arrangement offers neither a chance for votes (it will lose them overall) or office (they won’t get many winnable seats). As for policy, the Brexit Party has despatched May and brought the UK to the edge of its preferred Brexit outcome. It is hard to see how much more policy influence it could have. Sacrificing itself to aid a radicalised Conservative Party in winning an absolute majority may be the most effective way for it to achieve its policy goals.

For Nigel Farage, on the other hand – and for many of those who have attained public office on his ticket – the incentives are a bit different. Britain is unusual in the way its populist radical-right parties have evolved. In most European countries, these sorts of parties focus heavily on immigration and authoritarian nationalism, develop structures and formal organisations, and over time become stable brands. They develop corps of professional politicians, experiment with new messages about economics, and durable relations with other parties.

In Britain, however, both UKIP and the Brexit Party have always been single-issue parties, focused on the European Union and Britain’s departure from it. When the Tories captured that issue with the Brexit referendum, UKIP evaporated. If Brexit actually happens under Boris Johnson, the Brexit Party will probably meet the same fate. YouGov polling confirms that, once Brexit is delivered, its share of the vote falls to 9-12%  (depending on who leads the Tories). It will leave behind as its legacy a Conservative Party that is increasingly defined by social conservatism and Euroscepticism, one sharing a certain populist hostility towards elites and institutions that frustrate the popular will. In other words, a Conservative Party not much unlike UKIP.

Such a Conservative Party would be fertile ground for Farage and other Brexit Party candidates. As individual politicians, they could seek votes and office either through a pact with the Conservatives in the next general election or, further down the line, as Conservatives themselves. This would give them a berth in a party that, unlike the Brexit Party, will still be viable after Brexit. And their main policy goal would be achieved.

As for Farage’s personal ambitions, they would be perfectly well served in the Conservative Party. In a June 2019 poll, YouGov found that 46% of Conservative Party members would be happy if Nigel Farage became leader of that party. Admittedly, that would risk a clash with Boris Johnson, a similarly populist figure, but it would be a better route to power than leading a single-issue party when that party has lost its ownership of its only significant issue.

There are precedents in British history for the merger of allied parties. The Conservatives have twice absorbed breakaways from the centre-left Liberal Party, both after long periods of electoral alliance. The party’s formal name, the Conservative and Unionist Party, reflects the first of these unions, when the anti-Irish Home Rule Liberal Unionists united with the Tories in 1912.

All that said, an alliance might not happen. Johnson has signalled that he would prefer a no-deal Brexit to any plausible deal with the European Union (since he has demanded the EU remove the backstop). However, that is not the same as saying he would be willing to campaign for a no-deal Brexit as a favoured outcome, which is what Farage wants. In his statement on September 2, Johnson stated that he still wanted to negotiate with the EU. The key question is whether Farage needs Johnson to publicly renounce any deal for his support, or whether he can accept a Johnson government that commits to a highly intransigent negotiating stance – which would lead to no deal anyway.

Nor would a Brexit-Conservative alliance necessarily rid Britain of populists agitating to the right of the Tories. As Fintan O’Toole so elegantly noted, Brexit won’t solve the cultural conflicts or economic malaise that produced it. There has long been a pool of extreme-right voters, enough to support the National Front, the British National Party and what’s left of UKIP. The left-behind will still be left behind, and their protests votes, added to that hard right, will be enough to keep a foothold in British politics.

Will Nigel Farage still be leading them? Perhaps he will retire after Brexit. However, he has plenty of incentive, at least from the standpoint of personal office-seeking ambitions, to lead his followers into the great Conservative ark – with himself at their head.

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About the Author

Ben Margulies is Lecturer at the University of Brighton.

 

 

 

All articles posted on this blog give the views of the author(s), and not the position of LSE British Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Featured image credit: Gage Skidmore via CC-BY-SA.

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