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16 February 2016

EXCLUSIVE: A Eurosceptic View: Is Referendum Defeat UKIP’s Best Case Scenario?

An opinion piece from within UKIP.

Remaining in the EU seems to be the scenario which a majority of UKIP’s officials and even some MEPs favour; I believe there are elements who envisage a referendum defeat that leaves UKIP as the party best placed to keep the EU under continued scrutiny. Unlike BREXIT, this would not only allow MEPs to finish their terms but also seek re-election in 2019, and it is interesting to note that talk of the “next election” is a conversation that is seemingly given a higher priority than BREXIT strategy.

Many UKIP insiders and staff are already positioning themselves internally in the hope of favourable or higher position on the lists for an election that the party is not supposed to envisage fighting.

Brexit might not be Ukip's best option
It is also worth noting that EU financing of its parliamentary group, The EFDD, and its MEPs is the only steady revenue stream that UKIP can rely on over a period of years, and that BREXIT will leave the party reliant on its dwindling number of donors and members.

It’s only natural that some MEPs, many of whom are in the biggest job of their lives, on the best pay of their careers, fear for their personal future after leaving the EU. Given that UKIP have consistently failed to replicate any of their European political success at home it is probable that most, if not all, of the current UKIP MEPs will never be elected to a position of this level again.

This thought process is not the case for all UKIP MEPs, as I have encountered some that have a genuine desire to “get out and go home”, who aren’t interested in anything other than BREXIT. But those who have side projects, who host delegations and enjoy the lifestyle a little too much, may find leaving the EU a bitter victory to swallow.

I believe that in the wake of a failed referendum a dozen or so UKIP MEPs will be returned to Strasbourg in 2019, although with diminished numbers they will probably be unable to recreate another incarnation of EFDD. Instead, a broader hard-right political group will form, which UKIP will join, but with less influence than they currently hold.

After Brexit, what then for Ukip?
The European operation itself gives one much insight into how the party functions. UKIP has no voting strategy at EU level, doesn’t vote as a bloc because the MEPs aren’t whipped (yet they still strangely have group meetings where a consensus is attempted to be reached but then MEPs vote the way they want anyway).

Most worryingly there is no dedicated policy unit working on Brexit, and as far as I am aware there is also no Brexit plan costed, researched or even written.

After 17 years in the EU parliament at the taxpayer cost, and with a mandate from UKIP voters in four European elections, the fact that the party cannot produce this plan of action is simply unacceptable. Solid research that is presented is routinely ignored by MEPs - for example an excellent report that linked the EU’s African policies to the ebola crisis was wasted.

Understandably, with no proper management structure to speak of, an internal “party only” recruitment strategy, and a “make it up as you go along” political vision, some staff feel unused and unwanted. While the research which could have a serious impact is sidelined, items which secure and maintain the support of ‘kippers’ in the UK is given priority status. As I was told on one occasion “if there aren’t votes in it, don’t bother”.

Perhaps if UKIP had retained the brilliant intellect of Richard North over a decade ago, and built a world class research unit around him, this would not be the case.

UKIP’s only realistic chance of a breakthrough will come in the event of a snap election which could occur if David Cameron’s government sides with the In campaign but Britain votes overwhelmingly to leave. In this highly unlikely scenario, UKIP could pick up a handful of seats in the fallout - assuming the party has the financial means to do so.

However, I feel that if the UK does vote to leave it will be by a razor thin margin, and at that point the British people will want the best placed most professional team to negotiate the divorce from the EU on their behalf. Unfortunately, barring a few of them, UKIP is not the place where these types of people will be located.

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