Brexit reflections from Lance Forman

Brexit reflections from Lance Forman

Here is the latest in our series reflecting on the Brexit process with regular BrexitCentral authors and others who have played an important role in our journey out of the European Union. Here are the answers to our questions from businessman and Vote Leave supporter Lance Forman, who became a Brexit Party MEP for London in May 2019, but endorsed Boris Johnson and the Conservatives at the 2019 General Election.

BC: When did you first come to the view that the UK would be better off out of the EU? Did you ever think that the EU could be reformed from within to make membership tolerable for the UK? Tell us how your views developed over time on the issue.

I have held the view that the EU was heading down a dangerous road ever since the introduction of the Euro. Indeed, that has been my prime reason for wishing to leave: the one-size-fits-all currency, which is a necessity for a United States of Europe, was never going to work if member states were to retain their independence. I have believed since then that this would create imbalances, leading to resentment and extremism and have watched the situation unfold precisely as I had predicted. I don’t believe the Euro can survive and ultimately will collapse. For me, Brexit was about helping the EU project to be dismantled in a peaceful way before the chaos which would surround a collapse ensues.

BC: What was your most memorable moment during the referendum campaign?

Hosting and speaking at the penultimate Vote Leave rally at my business premises, Forman’s Fish Island, was a true honour. Other speakers included Michael Gove, Priti Patel and of course our now Prime Minister Boris Johnson. I think the campaign was happy with what I’d said as I was invited to speak again at the final rally at Old Billingsgate.

BC: Who was the most unlikely ally you campaigned with or shared a platform with during the referendum? Did you strike up any unexpected new friendships across traditional political divides?

I met Kate Hoey on occasion and indeed she also spoke at the final rally. Whilst a Labour MP, I felt we had much more in common than many of the Tory Remainers. A great woman.

BC: Where were you on referendum night? How did it feel?

I was at a friend’s house glued to the TV screen, right the way through until the final result. I really felt that this was a historic turning point and was so happy the British electorate had got it right. Having said that, I believed all along that Leave would win and even in the final days was convinced of victory. I’d read the polls and spotted that those with a larger sample size were showing Leave winning.

BC: Did you think then that it would take as long as it has for Brexit to actually happen?

Absolutely not. Although David Cameron’s position was untenable, I didn’t think he would resign so soon and thought he might have waited for a few weeks; and I certainly didn’t predict the Remain fightback.

BC: Were there any moments in these last few years since the referendum when you thought the prize could yet be snatched from us?

Not really. It was clear to me that having voted for Brexit, the British electorate would never be satisfied until it was delivered. I didn’t think the EU would succeed in getting us to have a second referendum as they did elsewhere. Our democracy is strong.

BC: Do you think the British electoral landscape will return to type once Brexit has been delivered? Or will Brexit have caused a lasting change to the political map of Britain?

I think we are already seeing a change. I see the main impact is that there is an alignment between the interests of ordinary working people and small businesses versus those working in the public sector and major global corporations. The little man is winning the argument and this should mean more free trade, less regulation and protectionism with aspiration/enterprise featuring more prominently. I also believe the change brought about by Brexit will impact globally. Others are watching us closely and will want to replicate what we do.

BC: What changes do you want/hope to see made now that the UK has taken back control? Can you summarise your vision for Brexit Britain?

I think there should be an urgent review of all regulations and, where possible, for any which can be exempted for small businesses, that should be done at the earliest possible moment. As far as business is concerned, I would like to see a light-touch government which strives to reduce taxes and deregulate. I don’t believe government needs to do much more than that. I would like the Government to be bold in the changes it makes in this regard. The people of the UK have made a historic decision, so now is the time to make some historic changes rather than tinkering around the edges.

If I were Chancellor, I would scrap Corporation Tax, for example. Tax revenues gained via dividends or wages/bonuses would make up for the lost revenue or else there would be much greater reinvestment of profits. It would drive a wave of massive foreign inward investment and totally remove the argument about international businesses not paying tax in the UK creating unfair competition for British businesses.

BC: Do you have any special plans for 1st February, our first day outside the EU?

I shall actually be in Switzerland skiing. I promise to steer clear of Davos!

BC: Do you have a favourite photo of yourself from the Brexit process? If so, please share it and give us the context for it.

Having joined the Brexit Party after the disappointment of Theresa May inviting Jeremy Corbyn into 10 Downing Street for cross-party talks, I made a decision to resign the week before the General Election and recommend to Brexit supporters that they vote for Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party instead of the Brexit Party. Since Boris returned from Brussels with his deal, a rift had grown between Nigel Farage and myself and I believed we should support Boris’s deal. I was unable to persuade others in the party that this was the right move, although three other MEPs – John Longworth, Annunziata Rees-Mogg and Lucy Harris – shared my view. We were particularly concerned about splitting the Leave vote and handing power to a Remain alliance.

So the photo above is of the four of us just after we held a press conference one week prior to the General Election to announce our decision and we hope it gave confidence to some who were planning to vote for the Brexit Party that they should vote Tory instead. At that time, the Brexit Party were polling 3%-4% but at the election it only achieved 2%, so I would like to think that we made a positive impact on the final result.