UKIP needs to breathe down the Tory Party’s neck again to ensure it delivers Brexit – and soon

UKIP needs to breathe down the Tory Party’s neck again to ensure it delivers Brexit – and soon

There is a lot of debate in my party right now about identifying a new long-term agenda and purpose after Brexit. I will certainly be contributing to that as we enter our second leadership contest of the year.

But those seeking to move UKIP’s focus on from Brexit are being rather premature. For the simple fact is that UKIP was set up to secure Brexit and Brexit has not yet occurred. So the original purpose of UKIP not only still stands, but – I would argue – is more crucial than it has ever been in the current phase of politics.

Each Sunday brings a new media onslaught from influential Remainer voices both in anti-Brexit newspapers such as The Observer and on the morning political TV shows.

These days nearly all the Remainers say they accept the referendum result following the spectacle of how badly Owen Smith fared with outright denial during his ill-starred Labour leadership bid.

But their agenda clearly is to achieve goals that will lead to what is merely a technical Brexit, while leaving Britain inside the single market, still encumbered by free movement and still under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. And some of them – yes, Tim Farron I mean you – appear to hope that a second referendum on the precise terms of departure could be used to stave off Brexit altogether.

Now, I am not saying that there is compelling evidence of Theresa May’s administration succumbing to this campaign that embraces everyone from Mr Farron to Ed Miliband and Tories such as the defenestrated Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan.

But I do find it concerning that Philip Hammond seems to be allowing the Treasury to resume the Project Fear it ran with such a singular lack of success up until 23rd June.

And there is certainly compelling evidence now of an orchestrated attempt to tug the Government towards a version of Brexit that involves retaining all the main features of our EU membership.

This is where UKIP not only can but must step into the breach. My old university chum David Laws recorded in his memoirs David Cameron’s explanation to Nick Clegg as to why he had pledged an In/Out referendum after having previously set his face against one: “My backbenchers are unbelievably Eurosceptic and I’ve got UKIP breathing down my neck.”

These days it is not only Tory backbenchers who are hardline Eurosceptic. I am glad to say that quite a few frontbenchers are as well.

And yet the second part of that equation remains crucial. UKIP needs to be breathing down the Tory Party’s neck once again to make sure that it delivers Brexit not just in letter but in spirit as well.

We are in a tug of war here and UKIP’s job is to tug the Government to the exit door as swiftly as we possibly can and prevent any slippage whatsoever in the Farron/Miliband/Soubry direction. That means pressing the Government to secure maximum access to EU markets but to take us out of single market membership in order that genuine national independence can be restored.

How can this best be done? In my view, by UKIP starting a campaign for the UK to leave the EU not via a two-year Article 50 process but by an early repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act.

Senior and knowledgeable Conservatives such as Peter Lilley have already come close to endorsing such a stance, noting that there are lots of areas requiring government decisions in regard to Brexit but relatively few requiring negotiation with our EU partners.

The biggest area for negotiation is trade and by far the most straightforward options are the mutual maintenance of free trade or a move to the WTO regime with negotiations to follow to further improve access, perhaps sector by sector.

In the end this will be an eyeball to eyeball matter between David Davis and the lead European Commission negotiator. Is the EU really going to cut off its nose to spite its face with the Eurozone on the verge of yet another recession?

From a UKIP perspective the whole palaver about when to trigger Article 50 can be seen as a distraction. Already several million of the 17.4 million Brexit voters are growing impatient. The less politically obsessed among them are asking a common sense question: we voted to leave months ago, so why are we still in this club?

As the months go by more and more Brexit voters will start to share this feeling of impatience. In my view it is UKIP’s duty to provide a political voice and a political home for such voters. If we can win the backing of several million of them in the local elections next spring, for instance, then Mrs May will perhaps start to feel she has UKIP breathing down her neck just like Mr Cameron did before her.

We can hope to balance out the tug of war team that is trying to drag her administration in the opposite direction and therefore we can perform a new service for everyone who believes in Brexit.

So you can expect to hear the following from me and my senior colleagues over the coming weeks: when can our trawler crews start catching fish again according to British law and throughout British territorial waters? When are we going to stop paying the EU around £10bn net per year? When are we going to be able to control the volume of immigration into our country?

Our part in the downfall of British membership of the European Union has not been completed yet. UKIP is about to get its mojo back.