I STOOD for the Brexit Party in the General Election in December 2019. Representing the party in my home-town of South Shields was an honour and a privilege, and one heck of a challenge. South Shields is a Labour stronghold, always has been, but it may not always be! Things are changing and a huge step was taken last December in reducing the Labour majority in South Shields by five thousand votes.
The campaign for last year’s General Election was as important for the future of our country as any I can remember. Another day for the discussion of the campaign and result though, as in this article I wanted to talk about the Brexit Party and its future. So many people are contacting me and asking, “What’s next?”
Well, it’s Complicated!
During the election campaign, we, the Brexit Party candidates, had two things going for us: Brexit, through the result of the 2016 Referendum and, arguably, the most significant politician of the day as our leader: Nigel Farage.
Political leaders can be very difficult to come by and without any doubt in my mind, Brexit would not have happened without him. He of course has his critics, he’s almost Marmite. His record speaks for itself and it simply cannot be disputed that he holds an audience, has the ability to resonate with people from all walks of life, and also that freakish gift of being able to read the political landscape accurately, which is without a doubt a rare talent. He knows what’s important to many people and the cherry on the top of the cake is what is currently important to people, he believes in!
So where does the Brexit Party go next? Well I think everyone agrees this will only become clear when the current Brexit negotiations are completed. Almost laughable is the current pantomime of brinkmanship we see being played out. Of course this is the EU form of negotiation and we have learned the hard way that you have to fight ‘like with like!’ When eventually, and it may even be later than the October the 15th deadline where we have an agreement or we walk away, the Brexit Party, which is in the wings and waiting, will either redeploy or rebrand.
Often on social media, the critics of Nigel are keen to label him as irrelevant. How so wrong they are! Boris Johnson is well aware of the clear and present danger of a Brexit Party redeployment in the eventuality of a BRINO deal with the EU. Any blink by the Prime Minister will, overnight, turn his eighty seat majority into a fragile position! Yesterday Nigel Farage issued a tweet that reminded the Prime Minister he is watching the Brexit negotiations with interest:
“The withdrawal agreement as it stands is not the Brexit we fought for. Boris misled us but is now trying to make amends. MPs who vote for Brexit in name only will see campaigns launched against them in their seats.”
It immediately caught the attention of those monitoring the parliamentary debate and made people wonder, what next? Farage has brilliantly reminded the PM of the danger of straying off course with his almost single-handed campaign of the dangers of illegal channel crossings. Farage forced this issue into the mainstream media and had our Secretary of State, Priti Patel, running around humiliated as she tried to report belatedly on the disgraceful situation she had allowed on her watch. As mentioned, Farage usually reads the landscape well and here he showed how influential and dangerous he is to the Conservatives – especially should Boris renege over Brexit.
So really we have two likely scenarios for the future of the Brexit Party - redeploy or rebrand.
I’ve already touched on the redeploy scenario, but where do you redeploy your party to? I suspect Farage has considered all options with the most likely being candidate selections and campaigns for the offices of Police and Crime Commissioners in May next year and targeting the local government elections, also held at that time. For me, if Boris blinks and redeployment is the way forward, it would surely be local government elections which would be tactically beneficial. The red wall loaned votes would be up for grabs and undoubtedly low hanging fruit. But more so, now we have no MEP elections, what better platform for people to speak out in than when selecting Local Government Councillors across the country?
Historically, local elections have been particularly drab and not too critical to national issues. I see this changing dramatically. Over the coming years, with regional devolution almost certainly progressing along with local government becoming more important as a representation of the population, I see this becoming an increasingly important battleground in British politics. The Brexit Party can build from this approach in the years before the next General Election. We now have the luxury of time until the next general election, unlike the hasty preparations in 2019 for both MEP elections and then the General Election. This time should be utilised efficiently to structure and further organise the party for the next General Election, standing primarily on Brexit and political reform.
If Boris is the man and politician many hope he is and Brexit is a real Brexit with no political alignment, fantastic. A rebranded Brexit Party will have a place in British politics. Personally, I feel if we had taken 10/20 seats in the last General Election, Parliament would have had a significant opposition to steer the Conservatives with Brexit. It didn’t happen, the country panicked with the idea of a Corbyn-led Government and we now have the Conservatives with an eighty seat majority. As the Reform Party, I believe there is a significant void in our politics to fill, especially on the right, and it’s what our Parliament needs. Currently this is being filled by the ERG, but it’s not acceptable. Over the last four years, the beautiful concept of democracy has been shown to be an utter illusion. Reform has to come and not a simple paid lip service, as in the past, but real significant reform. This is how, with Farage leading the way, I see a Reform Party growing. I see this initially through local government elections growing to be a force in the next General Election and of course we cannot forget Brexit. Whatever the outcome of the current negotiations, we need a party led by Farage to be represented in Parliament to help further develop our future trade direction.
It’s a waiting game for now. We need the negotiations finalised. Farage has been reserved on the Brexit Party’s future role, understandably. He recently commented “he trusts Boris to stand firm, protect our interests, and, if necessary, revert to WTO rules if a reasonable trade deal proves impossible to negotiate by this year’s end.” I don’t think he does trust the Prime Minister however, and I think many of us don’t trust the PM either, and if truth be told it may not be a decision Boris has ultimate control over anyhow. We just have to see things played out and react accordingly.
I recently heard someone call Nigel Farage a “quintessential political animal.” That really is accurate. If you don’t like him, sorry, he isn’t going away! If you support him, have patience as he has perfect timing and he will be back!
AS THE UNITED KINGDOM prepares its exit from the European Union transition period and tussles with a strategy for Covid-19, Boris Johnson has pondered his January decision to allow Huawei to roll out its UK 5G network.
Indications from Downing Street last Friday suggest the Prime Minister has now shifted position in favour of reducing Huawei’s UK 5G involvement even further. The potential shift would see a new approach of scaling back the Chinese provider’s 5G involvement in the UK ultimately leading to a point in 2023 where Huawei would have no further involvement in the UK’s 5G network.
There was a heavy sigh of relief nationwide conveyed via Tweets and Facebook posts across their social media platforms late on Friday as this went public. So many who support Boris Johnson with his position of a tough exit strategy from the EU are also hoping for a similar stance globally. Eyes are focused on Johnson and his key decision making on issues like the Huawei contract: is he really the man – the Prime Minister, they hope and need him to be?
● Will this change of position on Huawei be enough to maintain domestic belief in Boris? Might it help improve his falling personal ratings after the Cummings episode?
● Will this reduce the anxiety and concern many of his own MPs have with the potential of targeted Chinese investment in the UK as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic – specifically in the Telecommunications sector? The last thing the PM needs is a Commons defeat with the Telecommunications Security Bill which is expected in June.
● Is this enough to remove the pressure from Number 10 in relation to Huawei from our security partners worldwide and in particular the 5 Eyes Alliance (USA-NSA, UK-GCHQ, Canada-CSEC, Australia-ASD, New Zealand-GCSB)?
● Will this placate American concerns and satisfy the doubts from Capitol Hill which could potentially derail a future UK-USA FTA? Interestingly, this potential shift with Huawei coincides with Boris Johnson's preparations for a G7 summit in the US, also in June.
I think so!
Boris Johnson was in a tough place with Huawei when he made his initial decision in January to sign-off on the rollout of the UK’s 5G infrastructure. His options were limited. Concerns from the US, urging a change of provider, would have cost the UK billions of pounds to act upon because of binding commitments already in place with Huawei. I see why the initial decision in allowing a “non-core” Huawei rollout was a strategy which could, at that point, have just about worked.
But who knew in late January this year, when the decision to give Huawei the go ahead was made, that within weeks the serious concerns with China and its record of dishonesty globally and in particular, with technology and security, would come rushing to the fore as Covid-19 swept the globe?
Boris Johnson may be divisive, but without any doubt, his support from both the Conservative Party and the people was clearly in his favour, giving him a comfortable political majority. I suspect many have doubts. Everyone is certainly watching to see if his production of a real Brexit and the expectations of him to be a great international leader become a reality. So many spinning plates, so many existential decisions! Foremost, he has to keep the people on his side. I believe this decision will tick that box, it’s complex – we cannot demonise and alienate China, but we can draw a line in the sand with trade and firmly show we have changed direction. This sends a message to Beijing that certain sectors, such as telecommunications infrastructure, are no longer for sale in the UK.
Huawei leads the way for the Chinese to dominate global communications. It’s happening now: the growth of Huawei around the world isn’t solely due to them having a unique product, it’s because they are supported by the Chinese Government which can underwrite costs, including losses, allowing Huawei’s bidding to be uncompetitive but beyond temptation to countries throughout the world. We can’t allow the Chinese to monopolise a sector that will govern our lives and our security more and more in every way.
The PM has been urged by a significant number of his own MPs to remove Huawei by 2022. His new position suggests he will do this by 2023 and this should be enough to keep this particular plate spinning, avoid what would be an embarrassing Commons defeat and remove a potential platform for the opposition parties to climb upon in numbers.
The position we take in relation to Huawei here in the UK will, for certain, have implications that go far wider than our shores. Many countries globally are looking for a lead from the West and we have a responsibility to send the right message. It will need to be balanced, practical and envisage the future we expect in relation to our security and the hand that technology will play. We need to stand together, be unified and where better to start than with the 5 Eyes Alliance on security and intelligence?
At present the USA, Australia and New Zealand have banned Huawei. These are three of our partners in the 5 eyes security intelligence alliance and we need to follow suit, we need to hold firm together.
Huawei and the West clash culturally. The Chinese culture of saving face above morality is alien to us, this won’t change. Do we really want our security relationships to be with a culture that’s so far from our own values? This is a time to set a precedent, accept reality and work with companies and countries which have our own moral and cultural standards. This is a pivotal decision which tells the world and our partners where we are and where we are going for the foreseeable future. Boris Johnson, with this change of tack, can send that message.
Article 30 of the Chinese Constitution requires a Chinese Communist Party cell to be constructed in any company where there are three or more CCP members. Article 15 requires all operating and management issues to be considered by the party committee. Chinese National Security Law states that any issue is a matter of national security and intelligence. Cybersecurity laws give the CCP power to say how and where data is stored. Cyber Espionage and anti-terror legislation give powers to the state to access encrypted servers and privately held information. Huawei often claims to be independent but they clearly are not. This poses a threat to our national security.
Currently, David Frost and his team are standing firm with the EU and our negotiations for an FTA. It won’t be long before we know how this will play out - potentially as existential to the UK’s trade success in the future is how a potential FTA with America develops. Presently, the UK’s Huawei decision could be instrumental in keeping this on track. With Boris Johnson's change in position, I believe this could placate the concerns being aired from Capitol Hill and reassure President Trump we are the allies the US expects us to be on Security and Intelligence.
The Prime Minister will be attending the G7 summit at Camp David in June and the position of phasing Huawei out of the UK by 2023, I believe, will be welcomed by President Trump. What better platform than Camp David to signal an ‘All is well' message? This will be highly significant in future trade deals – not to mention the impact it will have in strengthening our hand in the ongoing EU negotiations.