Winning the European elections later this month would only be the “first step” towards delivering the Brexit demanded by UK citizens, Nigel Farage, whose newly established Brexit party is dominating polls in the UK, said on Tuesday (7 May).
“Winning these elections will be great but it won’t be enough,” Farage told a Brexit party press conference, adding that he was “not convinced that even if we won a second referendum, this government and parliament would follow the will of the people.”
“Be in no doubt, these European Parliament elections are but a first step.”
The Brexit party is demanding that the UK leave the EU by 31 October and revert to trading with the EU on WTO terms.
Farage also confirmed that he would lead the Brexit party delegation in the European Parliament, and has no plans to stand for the national parliament. His party has begun its process of recruiting candidates to fight the next general election.
Since its formation earlier this week, Farage’s new party claims to have raised more than £2 million from 88,000 registered supporters. Farage added that he was expecting to announce funds from a group of former Conservative party donors.
Those donors will not, however, include controversial UKIP donor and Leave.EU financier Arron Banks, currently facing a series of investigations.
In the meantime, formal talks between the Conservatives and Labour on a potential Brexit compromise deal are continuing this week, after both parties suffered bruising results in last week’s local elections.
“This is a time when we have to be willing to make compromises on all sides because the message of last week was that voters for both main parties are very, very angry about the fact that Brexit hasn’t been delivered,” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC on Tuesday.
However, although Prime Minister Theresa May is anxious to seal a cross-party Brexit deal to allow the UK to leave the EU by the end of June, meaning that UK MEPs would not take up their seats, her Conservative MPs have warned that they would force her resignation if she did a deal with Labour.
Professor Anand Menon, director of The UK in a Changing Europe, said that the local elections, where May’s Conservatives lost over 1300 local councillor and Labour also suffered small losses, had “hardened positions”.
“It strikes me that it is very hard for Labour to agree on anything substantial…the ‘wait for the Tories to implode’ strategy is still alive and well,” he said on Tuesday at the launch of his think-tank’s report on the possible impact of the European elections on Brexit.
The Brexit party is currently leading Labour in opinion polls ahead of the European elections, with three pro-Remain parties: the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and the recently formed Change UK, all polling around 10%.
That has prompted some pundits to argue that pro-Remain parties have made a tactical misstep by not forming a coalition and will obtain fewer seats by fragmenting the pro-Remain vote.
Change UK candidate Gavin Esler told EURACTIV last week that the delay to his party finalising its registration with the UK’s Electoral Commission had made a formal ‘pro-Remain’ alliance with like-minded parties impossible.
But since the elections will be seen by many as a proxy for a second referendum, votes are just as important as winning seats.
“Having a large swathe of Remain parties will help maximize their vote,” said Menon.
“The results are one thing but the narrative is something else. Everyone wants to be the face of the new politics that they think might come through,” added Simon Usherwood, deputy director of UK in a Changing Europe.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]