Steven Woolfe MEP: Why UKIP Is The Official Opposition Now

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By Steven Woolfe MEP | 4:32 am, October 5, 2016

As Theresa May delivered her first speech to the Conservative Party as Prime Minister I wondered whether the pre-address press briefings would for once stand up to scrutiny.  To the Tory faithful, May’s speech was received with huge applause and enormous smiles. She had presented the Great Reform Bill as her key policy and indicated that her party would not waiver on Brexit meaning Brexit.

As a member of another party – albeit one that also believes that Brexit must mean Brexit – what did it signal, what could we say about it, what was its significance?

Firstly, I would say that I was encouraged by remarks that in government there is a leader that understands the enormous political significance of the referendum and the long term damage to our body politic if it is ignored.

I was encouraged that there will be no backsliding on Brexit and that there is a genuine determination to ensure we, as a country, face up to the positive challenges of being a sovereign nation once more.

I was happy to see a genuine determination to face down the doom-mongers in her own party and stand up to the anti-democrats on both sides of the house who want a watered-down deal. Essentially, I will give praise where praise is due. It was a good job and she should be congratulated for it.

As I said on Question Time last week, the debate around “soft” or “hard” Brexit is nothing more than an attempt to cloud the debate and prize an opening to overturn our independence vote. For me and millions of others, we knew what Brexit meant when we voted to leave.

The referendum question was crystal clear – exit as a member or continue to be a member of the European Union. Exiting meant leaving the single market, no more free movement of people, ending membership fees to the EU, and UK law and lawmakers being supreme once again.

Yet, despite the Prime Minister’s strong stance, this is not the end of the EU question. While we wait until March 2017 for the issuing of our Article 50 letter, the UK will have sent billions of pounds to the EU.

Our borders are still open and hundreds of thousands of people could seek to enter for work until we actually leave. The question of EU citizens’ rights to remain in Britain is unresolved and thousands of EU regulations will also remain in place.

These are serious issues and simply waiting for Article 50 or the negotiations will not solve them. This time period may also give more time to Remain politicians, some of whom seek a second referendum, to regroup.

Furthermore, the key four criteria for Brexit I outlined will still need to be negotiated while all this continues. If the criteria are not met, then we would have not fully left as a member-state. This is why I have come to the view that repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 Act is the more appropriate option so the promised Great Repeal Bill would start immediately.

Brexit aside, I am happy to see Theresa May put social mobility back on the agenda.

Social mobility has been declining for a generation – and I support any moves to put academic selection back at the heart of our education system. This has been UKIP policy for a decade, and I’m pleased it’s now at the centre of political debate.

While UKIP gained 4 million votes last year and only one MP, it goes to show that UKIP has influenced the political agenda – making us the true opposition. Politics is not always about winning – sometimes it’s about changing and influencing things from the outside.

There are other areas of domestic policy which Theresa May is now talking about where UKIP has driven the agenda for some time.

The coalition government took the minimum wage out of tax altogether – this was a UKIP policy. Increasing the defence budget to 2% of GDP, in line with NATO guidelines, was also a UKIP policy. And only this week at the Conservative Party conference, the government announced a new scheme to build thousands more homes on brownfield sites – which was in our last manifesto.

On Sunday, Theresa May hinted at a possible bill to reform the House of Lords – something of which I am personally supportive.

I detest the sort of politics that oppose initiatives and policies for the sake of opposing them – simply because they were adopted by a party that is not their own. Politics isn’t about us, it’s about the people. And if a government, of whatever colour, makes a good decision then it should be celebrated.

I hope the Prime Minister lives up to expectations and delivers on her promises, especially on Brexit and immigration controls. There is still much to achieve in this post-Brexit world.

We in UKIP will continue to take a pragmatic view to everyday politics – we will continue to fight for what we believe in, but we will oppose and support the government when necessary – to build a happier, more confident UK.

  • Steven Woolfe is MEP for North West England