Following the recent local election results, it is clear the electorate is frustrated with the Conservative Party and it’s inability to have delivered Brexit on time. Whilst the Tories faced a protest vote at the local elections, resulting in a much reduced turnout of Conservative supporters, it is highly likely that many discontented voters will further voice their frustrations by turning to the Brexit Party at the upcoming European elections on May 23rd.
Indeed, I myself am also frustrated with the lack of progress and delivery on Brexit and have also questioned whether voting Conservative, in just under two weeks’ time, is the right thing to do. Leaving the European Union without a deal sounds straightforward, easy, and appealing to many Leave voters, who are rightly frustrated. Whilst the LibDems claim a no-deal exit would be catastrophic, the Brexit Party say it would be a walk in the park. It would be neither. The doomsday scenario painted by pro-Remain parties is inaccurate. However, leaving without a deal would bring short-term economic hardship, which cannot be ignored. A vote for the Conservative Party on May 23rd is a vote for leaving the European Union, but leaving in a managed way, which not only delivers on the vote of 2016 but also goes someway to reuniting the country.
Despite widespread criticism for the Withdrawal Agreement, people often overlook the fact that the most crucial negotiations are yet to come. Theresa May’s deal merely acts as a mechanism for leaving, so that the UK can begin future trading arrangements with the European Union. By far the most scrutinised aspect of the Withdrawal Agreement has been the Irish backstop, which critically could never come into effect and would not be in the best interests of either the UK or the EU if it did. Although I was initially hesitant about the deal, it became apparent that it is the best way to ensure the UK leaves the EU.
Furthermore, the Political Declaration, which outlines a vague framework for future trade negotiations, offers the possibility of a comprehensive free-trade agreement, and with the next phase of negotiations likely to be led by a pro-Brexit leader of the Conservative Party, there’s a strong likelihood that this could be the route pursued. Even the most ardent Brexiteer must conclude that this is a far more desirable outcome than trading on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms. Fundamentally, whilst Nigel Farage will tell you that trading on WTO terms will present no serious issues, the fact remains that no single country in the world trades solely on these grounds.
Make no mistake about it, the Conservative Party is still very much the party of leaving the EU, but doing so in a pragmatic, managed and sustainable way. Let’s explore the alternatives to voting Conservative. On one hand you have the Remain Alliance (Lib Dems, Green, SNP, Change UK and Plaid Cymru), all of whom are intent on overturning perhaps the greatest democratic exercise in British history and fundamentally rejecting the views of millions of people, many of whom had never voted before the referendum. Then you have Labour, who want to see the UK locked in a Customs Union with the EU, with no say over our own trading arrangements - essentially being subject to Brussels but no longer having a seat at the table. Finally you have UKIP and the Brexit Party. Both are single issue parties who are intent on delivering a no-deal Brexit, yet have no idea what to do next. Regardless of your views on Theresa May and the Withdrawal Agreement, the Conservatives are the only party with a credible plan to deliver Brexit that is widely supported by businesses, providing certainty and clarity.
Critically, the final decision on Brexit will not be made during these European elections, but in Westminster. MPs have already made their voices heard. They will not countenance leaving the EU without a deal and the House of Commons seems to be edging closer and closer to a watered down form of Brexit, barely recognisable to what was voted for in 2016. Conservatives are the only party in Westminster who are actually pushing to deliver Brexit. Regardless of how the Brexit Party perform this coming week, there is little they can do to influence the process in Parliament.
Just over a week ago, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt hit the nail on the head. ‘It is the reality for this Prime Minister,’ he said ‘and would be for any Prime Minister, that Parliament will not accept no-deal. As a Brexiteer myself, I am intent on leaving the European Union. I do not want a second referendum, I do not want to remain. If we can’t leave without a deal, then the only option is to leave with a deal; the deal we have on the table.