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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

The Brexit Party: worrying the Westminster sheep? Interview with party leader Catherine Blaiklock

A new pro-Brexit party, approved by the Electoral Commission, has been founded in response to the reluctance of Parliament to honour the verdict of the EU referendum. Nigel Farage, former leader of UKIP, declared in the Daily Telegraph that if Britain's exit from the EU is delayed, he will stand as candidate in the European Parliament elections: 'I have made it clear many times that I will not stand by and do nothing, so should this election need to be contested, I will stand as a candidate for the Brexit Party and I will give it my all'.

The party is led by Catherine Blaiklock, who was also previously in UKIP.

In an exclusive interview for the Bruges Group, Niall McCrae asked Catherine Blaiklock about the prospects for this new party.

NM - Congratulations, Catherine, on your appointment as leader of the Brexit Party. Some in the Bruges Group know you already, but would you like to introduce yourself?

CB - I came out of the government care system and I think I'm one of the few people to have gone to Oxford from care. I have worked as a financial markets trader as well as currently in small business. I also set up and funded the small Nepalese health care charity, Nepal in Need. I have lived all over the world and have a Jamaican husband.

NM - Nigel Farage warned that if Parliament fails to ensure Brexit happens, he would return to the political stage, but could you explain the timing of the launch, given that the government is still negotiating on the terms of departure?

CB - The timing is two-fold. First, to put further pressure on MPs. We felt that simply writing to them was not enough, and that they only listened to an electoral threat. We need to make MPs listen to the 17.4 million winners of the referendum, rather than just listening to the losers. We have had eleven referendums since 1973 in the UK and the results of all have been abided by. Greenland also left the EU with basically the same percentage vote to leave, with no problem. Secondly, unlike the various leave campaigning bodies (such as the Bruges Group) we need a political party ready for the possible European elections. As I said before, MPs basically only respond to an electoral threat.

NM - The Brexit Party has already attracted lots of interest. However, it seems that despite the prominence of Nigel Farage, your party has had limited coverage in the mainstream media. This could be simply anti-Brexit bias but there are also pro-Brexit outlets loyal to the Conservative Party. UKIP has been blackballed since the referendum, so how will you ensure that the Brexit Party gets heard?

CB - We have had 35000 people register interest in 48 hours. We will have to be heard through social media if we cannot get through to the mainstream media. Nigel has 1.3 million followers. However, I expect a media momentum to pick up if we stand candidates and when we have more high-profile people.

NM - Recently you were economic spokeswoman for UKIP, and you warned about a coming debt crisis. Will this economic theme be highlighted under your leadership of the Brexit Party?

CB - I am interested in economics so I will talk about it, specifically the disastrous structural problems with the Euro. But we will have a very simple message for this campaign because all the MSM do is talk non-stop about economics. People did not vote for Brexit just for economics - in the same way, that people do not normally fight just for money. People voted to get sovereignty and our independence back. However, in the long term I see amazing economic opportunities for Britain, as I saw when I lived in Singapore. Some things like control of borders and our own independence are more important than economics. Most MPs go on and on about tiny details, missing the big picture.

NM - Is the Brexit Party inclined towards free trade, or is there a taste for Trump-style protectionism? I'm thinking of the steelworkers of Port Talbot. Removal of tariffs would put their jobs at risk. Is there anything to be learned from Trump's policies?

CB - This is not part of our policies at the moment, but I am interested in putting Britain first - that is the heart of our party policy. What's best for Britain is likely to mean a mix of these options, because everything depends on specific circumstances and specific industries. I would argue that free trade is a bit of a misnomer - most trade barriers are now about regulations rather than tariffs. The EU and the French have made an art form of it. Until we get control, all the rest is just talk. If you don't make laws you cannot control anything, so it's pointless talking about help for iron and steel when you can't do it under EU law. We must take back decision-making control. This is the campaigning point. All other policies follow from this.

NM - The Leave vote could be seen as a profoundly patriotic reaction to the globalist political establishment. To what extent should the Brexit Party express national pride? Do you see any difference between patriotism and nationalism?

CB - No, I think the differences to ordinary people are semantic and academic. Globalist-type politicians cast these as bad words. Yet the same politician will be only too happy to campaign for homelands for Tibetans or Kurds. Of course I'd agree with them on the likes of Tibet, but why don't they value nationhood of their own country?  

NM - How will the Brexit Party deal with inevitable accusations of xenophobia and harking back to Empire? Nigel Farage, despite his efforts in the past to keep overt racists out of UKIP, was constantly smeared as a racist.

CB - It is inevitable and it is wrong. People are getting fed up with it. 'Racist' is now losing its original meaning. It is like calling 'Fire' when there isn't one. Real racism is serious and nasty. Calling ordinary patriotic people 'racist' just devalues the word. I have here a quote from Guilty Men, by Cato the Younger: 'This pamphlet is dedicated to all those men and women who worked with clear mind and steady purpose to keep Britain out of the Eurozone and thereby salvage our national independence, pride, and prosperity – only to be insulted and derided as cranks, little Englanders, buffoons, racists, maniacs, extremists and xenophobes.' I think it sums this up well.

NM - Where do you see the most fruitful sources of Brexit Party support – in the ranks of the Conservative Party, in the Labour heartlands of the Midlands, Wales and the North, or in UKIP? I guess you are pursuing a broad base, but are there segments of Brexit support that you won't invite? Could someone join the Brexit Party while also being a member of another party?

CB - Right now we are calling for supporters. We were only approved on Friday so we are working on structure now. Our constitution is libertarian at heart and non-discriminatory, so we do not want people who discriminate on the basis of race, sex or religion. We specifically will not allow extremists to join.

NM - Do you anticipate any defections of MPs to give you an immediate Westminster presence? On the threatened breakaway of Labour MPs, possibly to a new party led by a Blairite Messiah such as David Miliband, would this be a help or hindrance to the Brexit Party?

CB - Nothing is certain now. I believe the existing two-party system has more chance of breaking now than any time in the last sixty years.

NM - Finally, as a political party you will be gearing up for your first electoral test. Local government elections in May (with mostly Tory councils up for grabs) is the first scheduled opportunity. Then there is the possibility of Britain's involvement in the European elections in May. And perhaps sooner rather than later, a general election. How does the short-term electoral situation look for the Brexit Party?

CB - We will definitely not fight local elections. Right now we plan to fight European elections if they came along. We are keeping an open mind about general elections.

NM – Thank you, Catherine.

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