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UKIP goes solo on Brexit referendum campaign

UK & Europe

UKIP goes solo on Brexit referendum campaign

UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

[Stephen West/Flickr]

The UK Independence Party will launch a separate campaign fighting for Britain to leave the European Union in the ‘Brexit’ referendum, rather than joining either of the two existing No campaigns.

The decision, announced today (1 September), highlights divisions that emerged during the UK general election in May. Some in UKIP said then that leader Nigel Farage was too divisive to lead the No campaign in the vote, which UK Prime Minister David Cameron has promised by 2017.

Cameron today accepted a recommendation by Britain’s electoral watchdog that the question to be posed to voters be changed to avoid a perception of bias in favour of the UK staying in the bloc.

Farage told the BBC that his Eurosceptic party had a unique role to play and wanted to “get cracking”. He also denied wanting to lead the No campaign.

He argued that UKIP’s success in the 2014 European Parliament elections, in which it was the most successful British party, showed it could deliver nearly two thirds of the votes needed to win the referendum.

>>Read: UKIP clinch European elections victory, Lib Dems plunge

It was reported that his campaign, due to launch on Friday, will focus on migration and the difficulty of controlling the UK’s borders if it remains in the EU.

On Sunday, Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May said it was time to restrict the principal of free movement to people with job offers. That goes much further than Cameron’s demands for EU reform, which include barring migrants from claiming benefits in the UK for four years.

Official No campaign

Only one group out of the two pushing for the role will ultimately be the official No campaign. The three rival No campaigns are UKIP, Business for Britain and The

In contrast, Yes campaigners have coalesced around a single banner. The group is yet to be named, but EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall is being eyed up to front the campaign.

Britain’s elections watchdog, the Electoral Commission, will decide which organisation leads the debate in favour of the UK quitting the EU. It will get higher spending limits, a grant and television time.

“UKIP is a political party, and whoever gets the designation as the official campaign will have to be an umbrella of some kind,” Farage told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“The unique role that UKIP can play within this is that we have 50,000 members, hundreds of branches across the country and we can do the ground campaign.”

Farage called for the two other groups to come together and fight the campaign as one. He said it could be fronted by a non-politician, such as a high profile business or sportsperson.

According to the BBC, early funding for Yes is coming from Lord Sainsbury and there is already a cross-party consensus in place, with Peter Mandelson, Danny Alexander and Damian Green the self-appointed political figures.

“What I do know is the Yes campaign is very active. Over the course of the last few months we have seen Richard Branson, Tony Blair and Lord Mandelson. They are out there campaigning and we need to get cracking,” Farage told the BBC.

Referendum question

Today, Britain’s Electoral Commission said the government’s proposed wording for the referendum could be perceived as biased. It currently reads, “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?”.

The watchdog suggested adding the words “or leave the European Union?”

Shortly afterwards Cameron accepted the recommendation. A final decision will be made by the UK parliament.

Today is also the first day at work for the EU’s new Brexit boss Jonathan Faull.

>>Read: Commission reshuffle has Faull take charge of Brexit taskforce

>>Read: Farage on Commission’s Brexit boss: ‘I wouldn’t call him British’


A surge in Eurosceptism has firmly pushed the European Union up the political agenda in Britain.

The ruling Conservatives have promised an in/out referendum on EU membership before the end of 2017 if they win the election, placing Europe's future at the centre of the debate.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he would campaign for the UK to stay, but only if the EU was able to reform, saying “Britain’s national interest is best served in a flexible, adaptable and open European Union.”

Further Reading