Dizzy Thinks that
the impending SNP thrashing of Nulabour
would be a threat to UKIP. Dizzy speculates that, were the SNP to win, then they might very well hold, and win, a referendum on Scottish independence and this would, in turn, lead to the breakup of the UK.
So where does UKIP fit into all this you may wonder? Well, as most people know, the European Union as it is today is the sum of its treaties. In the case of our membership, it was the UK that negotiated entry and agreed to become a signatory. An SNP referendum win on independence will effectively nullify all those treaties. After all, if the nation state that joined no longer exists, then, as they say, "all bets are off".
Scotland will, if it so chooses (and I can't see her not doing it when the money from England disappears), negotiate its own membership of the EU. Likewise, it will be down to what is left, be it separate nations or a new Union between England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to find a settlement on it’s relationship with the EU.
Consequentially, and party politically, as the United Kingdom will technically not exist it means the playing field on which UKIP places itself is suddenly, and dramatically, altered changed. The simple move of breaking the Act of Union will instantly propel each of the home nations out of the EU and will provide the means for renegotiation on whatever terms we so choose. Be it rejoining; be it EFTA; or be it "sod off".
Ah, well that's the trick isn't it? What would the government of the day do?
There are several points to address here. Let's leave aside the technical legal debate (in Dizzy's comments
) about whether we would, in fact, be propelled out of the EU and simply take that fact as a given.
What would Britain do? If the LibDems were in control, then they would certainly renegotiate entry and I imagine that they would do it on similar terms as we currently have, and might go for even greater integration.
This would not really be that difficult: over the years, many of the individual instruments have been consolidated into treaties in the way that the Social Chapter is now integrated into the Treaty of Amsterdam. With the size of Britain's contribution to the EU coffers and to its members' markets, I cannot see a problem with England and Wales (perhaps forming a new Union) rejoining. And, let's not forget, we have already passed all of the necessary Regulations, Directives and Recommendations into British Law anyway.
In fact, I suspect that Scotland, economically suspect as it is, would be the nation that would have the most trouble convincing the other EU states to admit them (especially the poorer Eastern European ones).
I suspect that both the Tories (in their present incarnation) and NuLabour would also renegotiate entry, but they might try to do so under different terms. This would be far harder and probably well-nigh impossible.
They might try to renegotiate our terms of Common Fisheries Policy, for instance; but the CFP is enshrined in the Treaty forming an EU in the first place. With no vote on the Council of Ministers, this would be impossible (and even if we did, persuading the other 26 members to let us break with the terms of the most fundamental treaty of the EU is just not going to happen).
Or, of course, these two parties might attempt an EFTA-style deal; I don't foresee a problem with that necessarily. Again, Britain is in an excellent bargaining position although it should be noted that we would probably be made to pay way over the odds for the pleasure of joining that club but, even so, we would almost certainly be better off.
In order definitely to be better off, of course, we would have to untangle all of the EU instruments that we have enacted into law over the last three decades (but then we would have to do that if we left too).
The question is, what happens to UKIP? Now, I imagine my UKIPer friends will point out to me that their party is undergoing a re-branding strategy and will soon emerge as the Independence Party. This is all well and good, but how many members, and crucially voters will it retain? I’d suggest that many will simply flock back to the Tory Party that they originally left once the EU issue is resolved.
Well, as I have pointed out, the fact that we are catapaulted out of the EU certainly
does not mean that the EU issue has been solved.
Obviously, UKIP would campaign for, at the very least, the EFTA option: there is absolutely no guarantee that neither the Tories nor NuLabour would not try to rejoin on the terms that we are currently under. This would still leave a place for UKIP in the political sphere.
UKIPs ultimate aim is the withdrawal from the EU and, if we did manage to achieve that, and we managed to persuade the main parties to ensure that we stay
out, then one could argue that there is little need for UKIP. A good many of its members might well rejoin the Tories (or, indeed, Labour).
Leaving aside Dizzy's postulation for a seond, in UKIP's current transformation the rebranding is the smallest part, for it is the general policy development which is much more important. However, this policy development is fundamentally still directed at leaving the EU. When people say, "what happens after we leave the EU?", we UKIPpers need to be able to answer that question.
In some ways, the general policy development is being undertaken so that we can
answer that question; this which makes us more electable which, in turn, means that the chances of us achieving our goal, i.e. withdrawal from the EU, that much higher. In that sense, if the goal has been achieved, then UKIP could, effectively, die a death having achieved its primary, founding aim.
After all, as I demonstrated with Oliver Letwin—who was unable to answer any of my substantive points and instead weaselled out
—the rational argument on the EU has already been won: it is only UKIP's status as a stable, credible political party that is, in the eyes of some, slightly suspect.
Consider this as well; many of the most active people in UKIP are libertarian free marketeers (which is not a bad thing in itself). However I’d hazard a guess that a large majority of its vote is simply made up of traditional Tories whose only problem is the single issue of Europe.
This is, I would say, a pretty fair assessment. However, it is those libertarian free marketeers who would ensure that UKIP's continuance. For most of those driving the party at this point in time—and I include myself in this—the issue of the EU is simply one policy in a panoply of libertarian policies that we would wish to pursue. In all of this rebranding talk, the central tenet is that of "independence" and that means personal
independence from the state as well as independence from the EU.
A great many UKIPpers are libertarians: we want small government; we want lower, simpler taxes; we believe in non-statist solutions to the public sector service problems. To an extent, and to people like me, these things are absolutely
as desirable as leaving the EU: but, at the same time, these policies are simply not possible unless we do
In some ways, in fact, the situation that Dizzy outlines could be a good thing for UKIP. In the same way that membership of the EU divides other parties, in UKIP it unites people of entirely different political affiliations (yes, I know that the Tories like to believe that UKIP is entirely
composed of disgruntled natural Tories, but this simply isn't the case). Hence of course, the infamous internal schisms and infighting.
With the EU no longer an issue, it would, as Dizzy points out, be likely that the party would shed a good number of the more traditional Conservative and Labour members; but then the libertarian core of the party would be entirely dominant.
UKIP would become a lean, mean libertarian machine rather than being populated with the current melange of conflicting political views, loosely held together by the single EU issue.
As such, I think that the party might actually grow—into something other than what it is now, to be sure—but something with a far more united general purpose: that of a dedicated libertarian agenda.
With a new identity, less infighting and the same core agenda amongst the vast majority of its adherents, the new UKIP would, in turn, be far more attractive to that large group of libertarians—many of whom are so very prolific in the British political blogosphere—who currenly do not have an effective political voice.
After all, for many Tories it is only tribalism or the burning desire to remove the authoritarian bastards of NuLabour, that stops them voting for UKIP now (even though many of them support UKIP's agenda). And the steady growth in the proportion of voters intending to place their cross next to one of the "other" parties show that mindless party political sentiment is gradually being eroded.
If the Tories unseat NuLabour at the next election and turn out to deliver everything that they currently promise (more green taxes, more power to the EU, state-funding, no tax cuts or even simplification)—and I believe that they will—then there will be precious little reason for those already disenchanted with Cameron to vote for the Conservatives again.
As UKIP continues to professionalise and develop comprehensive policies, there will be even less reason for those who agree with UKIP's libertarian agenda not to vote for the party. As the British state continues to grow, UKIP will become a serious contender.
Labels: EU, libertarianism, musings, politics, UKIP