Brexit Party


The Brexit Party is a Eurosceptic political party in the United Kingdom. It became an active party in January 2019, and is currently led by Nigel Farage. The party has 28 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and four Welsh Assembly Members. The party's first major electoral success was winning the largest share of the national vote in the 2019 European Parliament election in the United Kingdom four months after the party's foundation.

The Brexit Party
LeaderNigel Farage
ChairmanRichard Tice[1]
Founders
Founded23 November 2018; 11 months ago (2018-11-23)
Headquarters83 Victoria Street
London
SW1 0HW[2]
Membership (2019) 115,000[3][4] registered supporters
IdeologyPopulism
Euroscepticism
European Parliament groupNon-Inscrits
Colours          Turquoise, white
SloganChange Politics
for Good
European Parliament[5]
29 / 73
Welsh Assembly
4 / 60
Local government[6]
36 / 20,249
Website
thebrexitparty.org
Nigel Farage, the party leader and a Member of the European Parliament (MEP)

Established by Catherine Blaiklock, the Brexit Party campaigns for British withdrawal from the European Union (EU) without a deal in order for the UK to trade on World Trade Organization (WTO) Most Favoured Nation terms, which it describes as "a clean-break Brexit".[7] Generally described as populist, it draws its support from those who are frustrated with the non-implementation of the 2016 referendum decision and wish to leave the EU without remaining part of the EU's Single Market or Customs Union. Many of its supporters were formerly of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) – Farage having led UKIP from 2006 to 2009 and from 2010 to 2016 – as well as from the Conservative Party, including high-profile defectors such as Ann Widdecombe and Annunziata Rees-Mogg.[8] There have also been some endorsements from left-wing supporters of Brexit, such as former Labour Party and Respect Party MP George Galloway and several former members of the Revolutionary Communist Party.[9]

The Brexit Party styles itself as being focused on the restoration of Britain's democratic sovereignty, its primary policy being for the UK to withdraw from the EU and to trade on WTO terms until formal trade agreements can be made. On contesting the 2019 European Parliament election, the Brexit Party became, with more seats than any other, the largest British party and the largest European party in that Parliament. Farage offered an electoral pact to the Conservative Party for the 2019 general election, but this was turned down by Boris Johnson.

History

A company called The Brexit Party Limited was incorporated with Companies House on 23 November 2018.[10] It was formally announced on 20 January 2019 by former UKIP economics spokesperson[11] Catherine Blaiklock, who served as the party's initial leader.[12] On 5 February 2019, it was registered with the United Kingdom Electoral Commission to run candidates in any English, Scottish, Welsh and European Union elections.[13]

On the day of the announcement, Nigel Farage, who had been an independent MEP since his departure from UKIP in early December 2018, said that the party was Blaiklock's idea, but that she had acted with his full support.[12] In a 24 January 2019 interview, Blaiklock said: "I won't run it without Nigel [Farage], I'm a nobody and I haven't got any ego to say that I am an anybody", and that: "I'm happy to facilitate Nigel and do the donkey work and work for him, but I don't have any illusions as to myself".[14] On 8 February 2019, Farage stated he would stand as a candidate for the party in any potential future European Parliament elections contested in the United Kingdom.[15][16] MEPs Steven Woolfe and Nathan Gill, also formerly of UKIP, stated that they would also stand for the party.[17][18]

On 1 February 2019, Blaiklock told The Daily Telegraph the party had raised £1 million in donations, and that over 200 people had come forward offering to stand for The Brexit Party at the May 2019 European Parliament election, if the United Kingdom has not left the European Union by then.[19]

After announcing the party's formation, Blaiklock attracted criticism for earlier comments described as Islamophobic.[20] She resigned as party leader on 20 March 2019 over since-deleted anti-Islam messages on Twitter, including re-tweeting messages by far-right figures including Mark Collett, Tommy Robinson and Joe Walsh.[21] Farage said that he would take over as leader, that Blaiklock was "never intended to be the long-term leader"[22] and that the party "is at the moment a virtual party – it's a website".[23] On the party's launch on 12 April, asked about issues with Blaiklock, Farage said: "I set the party up, she was the administrator that got it set up. We had a couple of teething problems, yes, but are we going to be deeply intolerant of all forms of intolerance? Yes."[24]

In April 2019, the party's treasurer Michael McGough was removed from his position after he was found to have made antisemitic and homophobic social media posts.[25]

Representation

European Parliament

In February 2019, nine MEPs who had left UKIP joined the party: Tim Aker, Jonathan Bullock, David Coburn, Bill Etheridge, Nigel Farage, Nathan Gill, Diane James, Paul Nuttall and Julia Reid. All were originally elected as UKIP candidates, but all had previously left the party in opposition to Gerard Batten's leadership, mostly in December 2018. As of April 2019, they all continued to sit in the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group.[26] MEP and former UKIP member Steven Woolfe also indicated his support for the party in February.[17]

In mid-April 2019, Jane Collins, Ray Finch, Jill Seymour, and Margot Parker left UKIP to join the Brexit Party.[26][27] Jonathan Arnott, who had resigned from UKIP three months earlier, also joined the party then, thus bringing the total number of Brexit Party MEPs to 14, being 14 of the 24 who had been elected as UKIP MEPs in 2014. They all sat in the EFDD group.[26] On the deadline to nominate candidates for the May 2019 European Parliament election, it was announced that only three of the incumbent MEPs who joined the party – Farage, Gill and Bullock – had been selected to stand for the Brexit Party.[28]

MEPs who joined the Brexit Party after foundation
Name Constituency First elected Joined Notes
Diane James South East England 1 July 2014 5 February 2019 (2019-02-05)
David Coburn Scotland 1 July 2014 12 February 2019 (2019-02-12)
Nigel Farage South East England 10 June 1999 12 February 2019 (2019-02-12) Leader of party; successfully sought re-election in 2019
Nathan Gill Wales 1 July 2014 12 February 2019 (2019-02-12) Former AM; successfully sought re-election in 2019
Julia Reid South West England 1 July 2014 12 February 2019 (2019-02-12)
Tim Aker East of England 1 July 2014 13 February 2019 (2019-02-13)
Jonathan Bullock East Midlands 28 July 2017 13 February 2019 (2019-02-13) Successfully sought re-election in 2019
Bill Etheridge West Midlands 1 July 2014 13 February 2019 (2019-02-13)
Paul Nuttall North West England 14 July 2009 15 February 2019 (2019-02-15)
Jill Seymour West Midlands 1 July 2014 15 April 2019 (2019-04-15)
Jane Collins Yorkshire and the Humber 1 July 2014 15 April 2019 (2019-04-15)
Margot Parker East Midlands 1 July 2014 15 April 2019 (2019-04-15)
Jonathan Arnott North East England 1 July 2014 17 April 2019 (2019-04-17)
Ray Finch South East England 1 July 2014 17 April 2019 (2019-04-17)

On 23 May 2019, 26 Brexit Party MEPs were newly elected to the European Parliament, including Richard Tice and former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, while Jonathan Bullock, Nigel Farage and Nathan Gill kept their seats.[29] The Brexit Party MEPs are Non-Inscrits, not members of a group in the Parliament.

MEP Andrew England Kerr was expelled from the party on 29 September 2019 over a potential conflict of interest. Farage explained that England Kerr made "comments about a business and a product that he has a direct financial investment in and we think that is unacceptable."[30]

Welsh Assembly

On 15 May 2019, four Welsh Assembly Members originally elected or co-opted for UKIP (Caroline Jones, Mandy Jones, Mark Reckless and David Rowlands) joined the Brexit Party.[31] Reckless was appointed as Leader of their Assembly group. One AM, elected as UKIP but by this time sitting as an independent, Michelle Brown, was told she would not be welcome in the party.[32]

Policies and ideology

The party's lead aim is its desire for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union and then trade with countries on World Trade Organization terms.[33] On 12 April 2019, Farage said that there was "no difference between the Brexit party and UKIP in terms of policy, [but] in terms of personnel, there's a vast difference", criticising UKIP's connections to the far right. He also said that the party aimed to attract support "across the board", including from former UKIP voters and from Conservative and Labour voters who supported Brexit.[24] Later in April, Farage said that the party would not publish a manifesto until after the European elections had taken place.[34] Farage has said the party will have a policy platform instead of a manifesto.[35] Farage has described his admiration for how fellow Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy members, Italy's Five Star Movement, have managed to grow from a protest group into the country's largest political party in both houses of the Italian Parliament. He has described the Brexit Party as doing the same kind of thing and "running a company, not a political party, hence our model of registered supporters" and building a base using an online platform.[36] The British politics professor Matthew Goodwin[37] and The Observer newspaper have described the party as national populists,[38] while Goodwin and others have also described the Brexit Party as populist[39] and right-wing populist.[38][40]

The party's constitution was published by the Electoral Commission as a result of a freedom of information request in May 2019.[41] It describes the party as seeking to "promote and encourage those who aspire to improve their personal situation and those who seek to be self-reliant, whilst providing protection for those genuinely in need; favour the ability of individuals to make decisions in respect of themselves; seek to diminish the role of the State; lower the burden of taxation on individuals and businesses."[42] SDP politician Patrick O'Flynn, who was elected as a UKIP MEP under Farage's leadership and supported the Brexit Party in the 2019 European elections, commented on the constitution's description of the party as following classical liberalism and ascribed them as having a Thatcherite ideological core.[43] James Glancy, one of the party's MEPs, has compared the party to the Referendum Party, being a "united and diverse group of people from different political backgrounds".[44]

The party's first non-Brexit-related policy was announced on 4 June 2019: a proposition to transform British Steel into a partly worker-owned company, in what has been described as "a hybrid of Conservative and Labour policy".[45] The party also supports cutting Britain's foreign aid budget, scrapping the proposed HS2 project and introducing free WiFi on all British public transport.[46] Furthermore, the party has said it will scrap all interest paid on student tuition fees, has suggested reimbursing graduates for historic interest payments made on their loans,[47] and has pledged to abolish inheritance tax.[48]

The party has signed a cross-party declaration alongside the Liberal Democrats, Green Party of England and Wales, and the Scottish National Party, calling for first-past-the-post voting to be replaced by a proportional system for Westminster elections.[49]

Funding and structure

The Brexit Party officially has 3 members as the Electoral Commission requires at least 2 named members to be registered as a political party. The 3 members are currently Nigel Farage, Nominating Officer Tracy Knowles and Treasurer Mehrtash A’Zami. The party structure has been criticised for having over 115,000 paying 'registered supporters',[50] which have no voting power to influence party policy[51]; Farage retains a high level of control over decision-making, including hand-picking candidates himself.[51][52].

Farage has said the party will largely be funded by small donations and that they have raised "£750,000 in donations online, all in small sums of less than £500" in their first ten days. The party also accepts large donations, such as £200,000 donated by Jeremy Hosking, a former donor to the Conservative Party.[53] He further said that the party would not be taking money from the key former UKIP funder Arron Banks.[24][1] Farage has personally faced questions during the 2019 electoral campaign after Channel 4 News revealed undeclared travel and accommodation benefits provided by Banks before Farage joined the Brexit Party, and on 21 May 2019 the European Parliament formally opened an investigation.[54] In response to the reporting, the Brexit Party banned Channel 4 News from its events.[55]

Two days before the 2019 European election, Farage accused the Electoral Commission of "interfering in the electoral process" after the independent watchdog visited the Brexit Party headquarters for "active oversight and regulation" of party funding.[56] An official donation of £500 or more must be given by a "permissible donor", who should either be somebody listed on the British electoral roll or a business registered at Companies House and operating in Britain. When asked if the party took donations in foreign currency, Farage replied: "Absolutely not, we only take sterling – end of conversation." Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell called for "a full and open and transparent, independent inquiry into the funding of Mr Farage".[57] On Sky News in May 2019, a Scottish National Party MEP, Alyn Smith, claimed that the Brexit Party is "a shell company that’s a money laundering front". The Brexit Party threatened legal action unless Smith retracted the claim.[58] Smith apologised unreservedly and admitted that he had no evidence for his allegation, and made a donation to the party's legal costs as well as to the charity Help for Heroes.[59]

Leaders

There have been two leaders of the Brexit Party: Catherine Blaiklock, who served from 20 January 2019 to 20 March 2019; and Nigel Farage,[60] who has served since 22 March 2019.[61]

Name Term
Catherine Blaiklock 20 January 2019 – 20 March 2019
Nigel Farage 22 March 2019[61]– present

Elections

2019 European Parliament elections

The party stood candidates in Great Britain at the 2019 European elections, including the former Conservative Minister of State Ann Widdecombe,[62] the journalist Annunziata Rees-Mogg (a former Conservative general election candidate and the sister of the Conservative MP and Brexit advocate Jacob Rees-Mogg), the Leave Means Leave co-founder Richard Tice,[1] the writers Claire Fox and James Heartfield (both once part of the Revolutionary Communist Party and later writers for Spiked),[63][64] James Glancy, a former member of the Royal Marines and the Special Boat Service who was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross,[65] Martin Daubney, a journalist and commentator,[66] David Bull,author and television presenter,[67] Brian Monteith, a former Conservative Party MSP, Rupert Lowe, a businessman[68] and retired Rear Admiral Roger Lane-Nott.[69] John Longworth, the former director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, announced he would be standing as a candidate for the party on 15 April 2019.[70] The party is not registered in Northern Ireland and is not fielding candidates there.[71]

A survey of 781 Conservative Party councillors found that 40% planned to vote for the Brexit Party.[72] On 17 April 2019, the former Labour and Respect Party MP George Galloway announced his support for the Brexit Party "for one-time only" in the 2019 European Parliament election.[73] On 24 April, the political columnist Tim Montgomerie announced that he would vote for the party and endorsed Widdecombe's candidature,[74] and the Conservative MP Lucy Allan described the candidates of the party as "fantastic".[75]

On 2 May, one of the party's candidates for the North West constituency, Sally Bate, resigned from the party in response to previous comments made by Claire Fox, the lead candidate in the constituency, on the Warrington bomb attacks.[76]

In May 2019, several polls forecast the party polling first for the European elections,[77] though earlier polls had suggested it would come third to Labour and the Conservatives.[78]

The party had 14 seats (acquired through defections) going into the elections, and saw an increase of 15. It won five seats more than UKIP, then under Farage's leadership, had at the previous election.

The party won 29 seats in the election, becoming the biggest single party in the 9th European Parliament. The CDU/CSU Union also won 29 seats in Germany, but it was an alliance and not a party.

Year Leader Share of votes Seats Change Position
2019 Nigel Farage 30.52%
29 / 73
New 1st

The 29 MEPs elected are as follows:

Name Constituency First elected Notes
David Bull North West England 23 May 2019 Former Conservative general election candidate
Jonathan Bullock East Midlands 28 July 2017 Former UKIP MEP; former Conservative general election and European Parliament candidate
Martin Daubney West Midlands 23 May 2019
Nigel Farage South East England 10 June 1999 Leader of party; former UKIP MEP
Lance Forman London 23 May 2019
Claire Fox North West England 23 May 2019 Former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party
Nathan Gill Wales 1 July 2014 Former UKIP MEP and AM
James Glancy South West England 23 May 2019
Benyamin Habib London 23 May 2019
Lucy Harris Yorkshire and the Humber 23 May 2019
Michael Heaver East of England 23 May 2019 Former chairman of the UKIP youth wing, Young Independence
Christina Jordan South West England 23 May 2019
Andrew England Kerr West Midlands 23 May 2019
John Longworth Yorkshire and the Humber 23 May 2019 Chairman of Leave Means Leave
Rupert Lowe West Midlands 23 May 2019 Former Referendum Party general election candidate
Belinda De Camborne Lucy South East England 23 May 2019 Campaigner for Leave Means Leave and Ladies for Leave
Brian Monteith North East England 23 May 2019 Former Conservative MSP
June Mummery East of England 23 May 2019 Campaigner for Fishing for Leave
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen North West England 23 May 2019 Co-chairman of the "No" campaign in the 1992 Danish referendum on the Maastricht Treaty
Matthew Patten East Midlands 23 May 2019
Alexandra Phillips South East England 23 May 2019 Former UKIP Head of Media
Jake Pugh Yorkshire and the Humber 23 May 2019 Former member of the Referendum Party
Annunziata Rees-Mogg East Midlands 23 May 2019 Former Conservative general election candidate
Robert Rowland South East England 23 May 2019
Louis Stedman-Bryce Scotland 23 May 2019
John Tennant North East England 23 May 2019 Former UKIP councillor, current Independent Union party leader and councillor
Richard Tice East of England 23 May 2019 Co-Chairman of Leave Means Leave and co-founder of Leave.EU
James Wells Wales 23 May 2019 Former Conservative
Ann Widdecombe South West England 23 May 2019 Former Conservative MP and Minister of State

House of Commons

Constituencies which the Brexit Party has said it will contest at the election.

Farage has said the party intends to stand candidates at the 2019 general election.[79] In April 2019 he promised not to stand candidates against the 28 Eurosceptic Conservative MPs who opposed the Brexit withdrawal agreement.[80] Following Boris Johnson's election as Prime Minister, Farage unveiled the names of 635 general election candidates for the Brexit Party, including himself.[81] On 8 September 2019, Farage wrote an article in the Sunday Telegraph and the Brexit Party took out advertisements in Sunday newspapers offering an electoral pact with the Conservative Party in the forthcoming general election, in which the Brexit Party would not be opposed by the Conservatives in traditional Labour Party seats in the north of England, the Midlands and Wales, and the Brexit Party would not contest seats in which they could split the Leave vote. Farage wrote that Boris Johnson should ask himself "does he want to sign a non-aggression pact with me and return to Downing Street?"[82]

The Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage had suggested that the Brexit and Conservative parties could form an electoral pact to maximise the seats taken by Brexit-supporting MPs, but this was rejected by Johnson.[83] On 11 November, Farage then said his party would not stand in any of the 317 seats won by the Conservatives at the last election. This was welcomed by the Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly; although he stated that there had been no contact between them and The Brexit Party over the plan.[84] Newsnight reported that conversations between members of the Brexit Party and the pro-Brexit Conservative group, the European Research Group (ERG) led to this decision.[85] The Brexit Party are reported to have requested that Boris Johnson publicly state he would not extend the Brexit transition period beyond the planned end of December 2020 date and that he wished for a Canada-style free trade agreement with the EU. Johnson did make a statement covering these two issues, something which Farage referenced as key when announcing he was standing down some candidates. Both the Brexit Party and the Conservatives deny any deal was done between the two.[85][86][87]

Local government

The party first stood at local government level in two by-elections in Gloucester on 25 July 2019.[88] They did not win either.[89]

A councillor elected to Rochdale Borough Council for West Heywood defected to the party in July 2019 from Labour, providing the party with its first sitting councillor.[90][91] Shortly afterwards, a councillor on the Rochdale Council from the Liberal Democrats also defected to the party.[92] All 12 of Rotherham's then UKIP councillors defected to the Brexit Party in July 2019, as did all 5 of Derby's UKIP councillors.[93][94] On 13 September 2019, ten independent councillors on Hartlepool Borough Council defected to the Brexit Party. They then formed a pact with the three Conservative Party councillors to become the largest group (they do not have an overall majority) of the 33 seat council.[95] On 18 September, a Conservative councillor sitting on both the Surrey County Council and Elmbridge Borough Council defected to the Brexit Party after being informed by his party that he would not be reselected as a candidate in a future council election.[96]

See also

References

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