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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Why I’m not standing in the 2017 election: I’m staying in Europe to fight on for Brexit

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Nigel Farage smiles as he holds up the small Union Flag he keeps on his desk in the European Parliament
Nigel Farage is staying put CREDIT: PATRICK SEEGER/EPA

I would never have entered the world of politics if it had not been for the European question. For years, leaving the EU was seen as a joke, fringe politics for obsessives. With the triggering of Article 50, the impossible dream will become a reality. The only question is on what terms. 

My political priority is getting Brexit on the right terms, which means we govern ourselves and have proper control of our borders. In recent days I have been torn as to how I can best serve the Brexit process. It is very tempting to put myself forward and re-contest Thanet South, especially given my anger over the conduct of the campaign there in 2015.

So, I have decided that I will not stand in this election but fight for Brexit in Europe

Perhaps even more tempting is to stand in Clacton, which is now Carswell-free, and possibly the most Eurosceptic constituency in the country by demographics. It would be an easy win and a personal vindication to get into the House of Commons after all these years.

On the other hand, I am the leader of a group in the European Parliament which gives me a big media platform across the EU. I have a front row seat where it matters most.

If I compare the platform I have in Strasbourg to being a backbench MP, there is frankly no comparison. The Brexit negotiations will take place in Brussels and the European Parliament will not only have a large impact on them, but a veto on any deal.

If I compare the platform I have in Strasbourg to being a backbench MP, there is frankly no comparison

I believe I can use my profile in European politics to put real pressure on MEPs to vote for a sensible deal. Just weeks after we are due to leave, there will be European elections. It is in the interests of EU businesses to secure a free trade deal with the UK. There are companies and workers who export to the UK at such an advantage to themselves that it is known as “treasure island”.

MEPs who are attempting to be re-elected need to feel the heat and the threat of losing their seats if they don’t back a sensible deal. There will be parties that campaign on a grown up ticket, and I will happily speak in European capitals to drive the point home.

So, I have decided that I will not stand in this election but fight for Brexit in Europe.

As the general election campaign begins, every attempt will be made to say that Ukip has served its purpose. In her speeches, the Prime Minister even uses the same words and phrases that I was condemned for over the last 20 years. Yet over the last few weeks, away from the main stage, the Brexit position has been softening.

I was appalled that in the corridors of a recent European Council meeting, I heard that the UK was prepared to concede our fishing rights as part of a trade deal.

Perhaps even more significantly, the government can’t seemt to keep a straight line on immigration. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said recently that it is not about numbers but the quality of people coming, only for the PM to then talk about sustainable levels of “tens of thousands”. 

Why would the British people trust a Prime Minister who failed totally on immigration as Home Secretary and will not give us a date for when free movement will end? 

Immigration and fishing were big reasons as to why the British people voted to get their country back.Without a strong Ukip voice in British politics, we will not get the Brexit we voted for.

Lynton Crosby, on his return to the Tory campaign, brought back a successful tactic.

In 2015, fear of the SNP dominating a Labour prime minister was used to drive Ukip voters to the Tories. Today we are told that unless you vote for Mrs May, an alliance of Labour, Lib Dems and the SNP will form the next government and reverse the Brexit.

For the moment, there are many – including some Ukip supporters – who believe it. As the next few weeks unfold, and the sheer ineptitude of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is witnessed by the public, the Tory poll lead will be so large that the pro-EU alliance argument will disappear. The certainty of a large Conservative majority will see Ukip voters coming home.

Ukip have had a transformative effect on British politics, but the job is far from done. We helped to win the war with the referendum, but winning the peace is of equal importance. I will help and support Paul Nuttall through this time and I expect him to emerge as a strong voice for what many millions want.

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