A MAN WITH NO ONE TO VOTE FOR
The former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, the party that forced the UK’s referendum on membership of the EU in 2016, has told Euro Weekly News in an exclusive interview that he will be spoiling his General Election ballot paper this week because he has no one to vote for.
Richard Braine, who just won a High Court case against his former party, told EWN that he will not be voting as he does not have a Brexit Party or UKIP candidate in his constituency.
He said: “How could I support a party that behaved so absurdly towards a leader and ex-leader trying to do his best to save the party and to help it?
“So for the first time in 30 years I will almost certainly be spoiling my ballot paper.”
He also labelled as “treasonous” the Conservative government’s attempts to avoid leaving the EU.
UKIP NEC WAS OBSTRUCTIVE
Last Friday (December 6) Mr Braine, who was elected to UKIP leader with a resounding majority in August 2019, won a case brought by UKIP’s National Executive Committee against him.
He described the UKIP NEC as “obstructive” to the things he wanted to do, as well as suspicious of him.
He said: “Ultimately there were people on the NEC who opposed me and my leadership and that made it pretty difficult to make any progress. In the end, I suppose I was forced out.”
“The party lost the case yesterday. The case was an effort to get an injunction to stop me publishing information that I’ve never had.
“So the party has been carrying out that case as a form of vexatious harassment in order to be able to publicise negative stories about me.”
TOWER OF BABEL
Yet Mr Braine has been voting UKIP and been involved in politics as a Eurosceptic since the attempts in the mid-1990s to leave the EU, which he describes as a tower of Babel: “The effort to build a monolithic empire out of a continent of extraordinary diversity – the whole plan – was doomed to fail and in fact do great damage to Europe, its incredible history, culture, economies, languages and all of that.
“So I was always a Eurosceptic since I was a teenager and I didn’t believe that a great empire could only be achieved through homogenisation of Europe. That would be a great shame.
“Generally I am not in favour of a big state. I have libertarian tendencies and generally think the government doesn’t do things very well and as the libertarian motif goes, ‘that government governs better that governs least.’ We should try to keep governments small, seems to me to be obvious politics.”
He pointed to the “appalling ravages of big state politics” of the 20th century in China, the Soviet Union, the Far East and so on.
“I saw enough of what went on in those countries to know I don’t believe in a big state, and so that’s another reason why I wasn’t a supporter of the idea of a European monolithic super-state.”
‘BEYOND MY WILDEST DREAMS’
These beliefs catapulted him in the mid-1990s into voting to leave the EU and campaigning for the Referendum Party, which was started by James Goldsmith in 1995 and called for a full referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.
After the party folded, Mr Braine started voting for UKIP and has done so ever since, but it was the possibility of a referendum in 2015/16 that galvanised him into becoming politically active again: “I didn’t think we could win it, but I knew that I had to be able to at least say to myself ‘I did my best and tried my hardest to achieve independence for my country’.”
Mr Braine, who is based in Chelsea, became borough manager for Vote Leave and Grassroots Out for Kensington & Chelsea. The borough ran a great campaign, he said, achieving the second highest leave vote of central London boroughs after Tower Hamlets.
“And of course we won the referendum, which was electrifying. It was beyond my wildest dreams. That was very, very exciting and a great moment. It still is very exciting, and lots of Brexiteers are very proud of voting Leave.”
2016 REFERENDUM JUST THE BEGINNING OF THE STRUGGLE
However, the battle had to on: “I knew back then if you see what happened in France, Ireland, Holland and many other European member state countries, it was just really the first skirmish, because I knew that great effort would go into making sure we were not allowed to have our independence back. And that’s exactly what happened.”
He said this was why he kept going with UKIP after the referendum because this was “just the beginning of the struggle, and it was.”
He went on to become a branch chairman at the party, standing for council elections, in the 2017 general election in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, and in the European elections this year.
Then came the UKIP leadership election, which saw his predecessor Gerard Batten elected. Mr Braine paid tribute to him: “The party went from about 18,000 to 30,000 in the year he was leader. So some things were going very well for the party. Our vote share in the local election was higher than last year.
“Despite a lot of criticism and people misunderstanding him and giving him a hard time, Gerard was quite a successful leader.”
BECOMING UKIP LEADER
However, the NEC stopped Mr Batten from standing for the leadership and instead approached Mr Braine. He said: “Because I had withdrawn from the leadership when Gerard was nominated, and they had stopped him from standing, they asked if I wanted to come back into the leadership.”
Mr Braine agreed and won the leadership election resoundingly, gaining 53% in a four-way race, the next highest candidate gaining 20%.
He was leader for just three months before the relationship went sour and he now finds himself unable to vote in an election billed the Brexit election.
VOTE LEAVERS PROUD
He insists that people who voted leave are proud to have done so but have faced a barrage of negativity in the press about “what naughty, uneducated, ignoramuses we are for voting the wrong way.”
He said opponents of Brexit can “do one”: “People in this country have been wanting to leave the European Union for a long, long time, and have suffered decades and decades of frustration with our politicians who don’t understand our point of view.”
Describing the Tories as the most “Europhile” party in the UK, he said the prospect of them delivering Brexit was “fairly remote”: “Don’t forget we were told at the 2017 general election that Theresa May’s government would take us out of the EU, plus over and over again, 108 times, in the House of Commons. So forgive me for being sceptical about whether the Tories are going to deliver Brexit.”
JOHNSON’S DEAL “WORRYING”
This is because they lack the will: “If you had a genuinely Eurosceptic government, then it could be done in an afternoon. I don’t believe the will is there.”
Instead, “The Tory party has spent the last three and a half years trying to explore every avenue there is to avoid leaving.”
Johnson’s deal is worrying when you read parts of it, he said, describing it as “just another treaty” like the current one, “except we don’t get any representation on the governing bodies of EU. We have to accept this horrible idea of a customs border down the Irish sea, and we still remain subject to the European Courts of Justice. That’s not leaving the EU.”
He said the Johnson deal is the Merkel/May deal re-heated: “The real purpose of it is to keep us so close to the EU that they can take us in as soon as they’ve managed to bully the people of this country into submission.”
UTTERLY DUPLICITOUS TORIES
Mr Braine labelled the Tory government “utterly duplicitous,” citing the “appalling” meeting at Chequers. He said: “It turned out that Theresa May was secretly using Olly Robbins to run a secret Brexit department that the Cabinet did not know about, and that she was going to have meetings with Merkel to get her orders, and see what could be agreed by Chancellor Merkel.
“So it’s established that she was misleading her entire Cabinet, and Parliament in fact about what she was up to. This was an extraordinary way to conduct things.”
He also pointed to the extent to which Parliament has been brought in to stand in the way of leaving: “None of this need have happened. A prime minister taking over from Cameron in July 2016 could have just used the royal prerogative to say we’ve left, goodbye, and that’s that.
“That would have been enormously successful because trade would have carried on as it was, people would have seen sense, the UK and EU would have used Article 24 of GATT to carry on existing trading arrangements, and it would have been, as I’ve often called it, Y2K2, a molehill, barely a bump in the road.”
But, he said, the Tories didn’t do that, and instead gave prominent anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller and her backers the opportunity to rob Parliament of the power to do what the people voted for.
Since then, every possible avenue avenue has been explored to make sure the UK does not leave: “Here we are, three and a half years later, and no closer to leaving the EU.
“It’s an absolute disgrace. I regard it as more or less treasonous.”
Nevertheless, he predicted that, with his lead in the polls, Boris Johnson would win the General Election, especially as an “amazing” number of Labour supporters are disenfranchised by Jeremy Corbyn and see him as man they cannot vote for to run the country.
SCAREMONGERING OF EXPATS IN SPAIN
He believes that Brexit will not affect the status of Brits in Spain. Pre-2016 outside Parliament he called for the UK to unilaterally give residency rights to EU citizens who live and work here and said that the government should issue a date in the future as the date after which EU citizens would no longer have an automatic right to migrate to the UK in the sense of coming to live here permanently.
He said: “That makes sense. People would know where they were. And people wanting to apply to come would have known they needed to apply.”
He hopes for and expects the EU to reciprocate for Brits in Spain and other countries.
He pointed out there are more than 3 million EU citizens in the UK, but only about a million or fewer UK citizens living in other member states.
He added: “That imbalance illustrates something important, that while we’re always told it’s so important to be part of the EU because of the opportunities, in fact it shows the opportunities are greater for people in the EU to come to the UK than for people in the UK to go to mainland Europe.
“So I would like to think that UK citizens in Spain will not be put upon or inconvenienced. I would hope Spain will do the sensible thing.”
He also pointed out that at the beginning of WW1 there were 50,000 Germans living in London, meaning that people moving around Europe was not invented by the EU.
He said: “If the UK gets out of the EU it doesn’t mean you can’t move to other countries. That is scaremongering.”
EU MIGRATION TO UK
Mr Braine pointed out the vast influx of people to the UK from mainland Europe during and since the government of Tony Blair which actually forecast as few as 15,000 would come to the UK.
He said: “It’s absurd. We are talking about millions. So Tony Blair completely lied about that. They knew perfectly well it was a lie.”
That migration has put pressure on wages and jobs for the least well-off in the UK. “It has increased competition dramatically for the lower-paid jobs, and it has kept wages low, and people in the UK have already suffered economically from the influx of people and workers from the EU member states.”
STRICTER IMMIGRATION POLICY
He said the UK should have a stricter immigration policy, pointing out that anyone going to the U.S. to work will be subject to a check that an American can’t do the job. A company wanting to hire a non-US citizen has to show that no current American citizen could do the job.
“That’s how a country should organise its border to make sure that inward migration doesn’t disenfranchise or take away jobs from, in this case, American people. The UK should run a policy like this to ensure UK workers are protected,” he said.
UK FAILURE TO TRAIN
Mr Braine believes that many British people fail to get onto courses of training as a result of the fierce competition because a lot of UK training colleges make more money from overseas students and that often reduces the number of places to train British people.
“There is this idea that migration is the only way to fill these jobs and that British people don’t have the talent. It’s a kind of racism. For big business and the Tories, it’s about getting low wage workers, and for Labour it’s about getting voters.”
Exclusive interview by Shirin Aguiar, political correspondent at the Euro Weekly News Spain.