Friday, 18 January 2013

UKIP in Government - the cracks start to show

In 1987 The Sun newspaper ran a story under the title "Nightmare under Kinnock" telling what a disaster a Labour government would be to the country. In 1997 the nightmare started on a slow burn and the Labour Government sleep walked the country into financial oblivion. A nightmare under UKIP would be just as disastrous.

 Campaigning started well. The UKIP Government took very early advantage of the latent anti EU sentiment which they, and others, knew was there. The campaign launch by the Prime Minister made it clear that the referendum question should be a simple in/out option. As the national debate developed it wasn't too long before serious questions were being asked. Would we be members of another free trade grouping like EFTA, would we go it alone with separate deals around the world or would we just  go it alone. The official UKIP policy, however, was to have a Swiss Style agreement with the EU without membership of EFTA and to continue negotiations to form a Commonwealth Free Trade Agreement. Fearful that this would create an isolationist feel the "Out" campaign quickly issued a statement that the UK is a powerful market in its own right and the EU relied on the UK more than UK relied on the EU so it would make no sense for them to block an independent free trade agreement with the UK. There were, though, some factors not properly considered by the Government. The EU had a say in who they had agreements with and there were some very bruised European leaders determined to block any move by the UK to exit the EU. After all UKIP themselves kept repeating the "you need us more then we need you" mantra. The front benchers had the sense to keep a diplomatic dignity about repeating this too loudly but the backbenchers were not so disciplined. The "Keep UK In" campaign within the EU was gathering pace albeit unofficial and shadowy. The very fact that the EU really needed the UK was turning into an Achilles heel and the fringe talk rapidly became open debate in Brussels. If the UK left the EU they would agree to a Swiss style agreement just like the Swiss. But this was on the condition that the UK joined EFTA, just like the Swiss. In a clearly political manoeuvre, the EU machinery had mobilised to make sure that UKIP were wrong footed and keep the UK in the EU. Pressure was now building from the UK electorate. The national debate was not a simple in/out but moreover how would you like the UK to leave the EU. The debate in Parliament on the referendum question was stalling. The in/out referendum was the very cornerstone of UKIP policy and, while at first popular, became the albatross around their neck and they were politically impotent to change it. Not for the first time the Government had to rely on abstentions to force the Bill through Parliament and an in/out referendum bill became the European Union (Referendum on UK membership) Act 2016. What started as a popular simple choice became a tool for the "In" campaign. This was the referendum which would answer a question nobody asked.

Next - UKIP, Back to Obscurity

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