UKIP and most of the Conservative party are divided by a common aim. We want to re establish self government in the UK. We do not like the current relationship with the EU, which means the EU makes too many decisions, passes too many laws and controls too much of our lives.
UKIP says the only way to deal with the problem is to announce our intention to leave the EU and to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act. Once that had been done presumably we should then sit down and discuss trade, cross border issues and the like with our neighbours and establish a new basis in the minority of cases where we do need agreement. Anything less than this approach is to some UKIP supporters a cop out, a con, or not likely to work. Of course the repeal of the 1972 Act and the relevant declaration to the EU could get us out quite quickly. The issue is how would this come about in UK politics? So far in UK General Elections few people have voted for this approach.
To bring this about UKIP needs to win 326 seats in the Commons. So far after ten years of trying they have won none. Mr Farage, one of their best campaigners, came a poor third at Buckingham in 2010 when the three main parties were not standing. UKIP came much closer to winning the Eastleigh by election, but even there were unable to beat a very unpopular federalist Lib Dem party. When they did get an MP to cross the floor he did not last long as a UKIP MP.They have won some seats in local government,but nothing like as many as the 3 main parties. Last Thursday they achieved a good result in a Council by election in West Suffolk, but it was on a tiny turnover. Even the most optimistic concede that their strategy is taking a long time, and no pollster or independent commentator is forecasting a UKIP win in the 2015 General Election.Sensible UKIP supporters want their party to work with the Conservatives to help supply a majority for an IN/Out referendum in the next Parliament. This then gives us, the British people, the chance to vote for Out and trigger the repeal of the 1972 Act.
Conservative Eurosceptics have adopted a different strategy. We have sought to develop good Eurosceptic policy in the Conservative party. We have built up Eurosceptic support in the Parliamentary party. As this week-end shows, a majority of the backbenchers now back a big change to our relationship. We now have a leader who has withdrawn the Conservative party from the centre right federalist grouping in the European Parliament. We have a leader who has made it official policy to negotiate a new deal and put that to a vote of the British people. He did veto the Fiscal Treaty, both keeping the UK out of it and preventing the others making it an EU Treaty. Conservatives are prepared to negotiate first and then vote for Out if as UKIP fears the other members of the EU offer us nothing worth having by way of a new and different relationship. We are more likely to win an Out vote if the doubters are proved true and our partners are unco-operative when we state our wish to have a new relationship. We are also more likely to get a better new relationship if the other members states see it is likely otherwise we will simply exit. We want trade, not common government.
This week-end 95 Conservative MPs have added their names to a letter to the Prime Minister saying he needs to go further. We are backing the European Scrutiny Committee’s proposal for the UK Parliament to have a veto on future and past measures from the EU. This would immediately restore the supremacy of Parliament, and allow us to opt out of any measure we did not like. Immediately we could have our own immigration policy, for example. This would lead directly to negotiations about that new relationship, and would show that the UK does wish to be self governing again, with sensible arrangements for trade and political co-operation with the EU.
Our approach of working from within has now got us close to delivering the referendum we need, despite the Conservatives not having a majority in the current Commons. . The Conservative party has got a Bill through the Commons, and intends to honour its promise after the 2015 election, with or without that bill becoming an Act of Parliament, assuming it has a majority to do so. All Eurosceptics should welcome that, as a vote of the people is the best way to determine our future after years when people have not been able to trust federalist MPs on this subject.
I am both more optimistic today than for many years, and more worried. I am more optimistic because many more people are now alarmed by the extent and scope of EU power and want something done about it. Public opinion is on the Eurosceptics side. I am optimistic because the Conservative party is offering a referendum which will allow us to exit if the relationship is not changed substantially in our favour, restoring self government. I am more worried because I think UKIP and Eurosceptic Conservatives are tackling the issue in two different ways, which could allow the federalists to win. The federalists are enjoying this, because split we run the danger of damaging each other rather than stopping the federalist juggernaut. We need a Conservative government in 2015 both to deliver the referendum and to avoid another five years of Labour government which would make it much more difficult to exit the current EU, as they would work with Brussels to drag us ever more deeply in at a time of further centralisation.