The Brexit Party is a Eurosceptic political party in the United Kingdom founded in January 2019. It is led by Nigel Farage. The party has 29 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and four Welsh Assembly Members. The party's first major electoral success was winning the 2019 European Parliament election in the United Kingdom after four months in existence.
|Founded||23 November 2018|
|Headquarters||83 Victoria Street|
|Membership (2019)||115,000 registered supporters|
|European Parliament group||Non-Inscrits|
|House of Commons|
0 / 650
29 / 73
|National Assembly for Wales|
4 / 60
19 / 20,210
Established by Catherine Blaiklock, the Brexit Party campaigns for British withdrawal from the European Union (EU) in order for the UK to trade on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms. Generally described as populist, it draws its support from those who are frustrated with the non-implementation of the 2016 referendum decision and wish to leave the EU without remaining part of the single market or customs union. Many of its members were formerly of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) – Farage having led UKIP from 2006 to 2009 and from 2010 to 2016 – as well as from the Conservative Party, including high-profile defectors such as Ann Widdecombe and Annunziata Rees-Mogg. There have also been some left wing endorsements, such as George Galloway.
The Brexit Party styles itself as being focused on the restoration of Britain's democratic sovereignty, its primary policy being for the UK to withdraw from the EU and to trade on WTO terms until formal trade agreements can be made. On contesting the 2019 European Parliament election, the Brexit Party became, with more seats than any other, the largest British party and the largest European party in that Parliament.
A company called The Brexit Party Limited was incorporated with Companies House on 23 November 2018. It was formally announced on 20 January 2019 by former UKIP economics spokesperson Catherine Blaiklock, who served as the party's initial leader. On 5 February 2019, it was registered with the United Kingdom Electoral Commission to run candidates in any English, Scottish, Welsh and European Union elections.
On the day of the announcement, Nigel Farage, who had been an independent MEP since his departure from UKIP in early December 2018, said that the party was Blaiklock's idea, but that she had acted with his full support. In a 24 January 2019 interview, Blaiklock said: "I won't run it without Nigel [Farage], I'm a nobody and I haven't got any ego to say that I am an anybody", and that: "I'm happy to facilitate Nigel and do the donkey work and work for him, but I don't have any illusions as to myself". On 8 February 2019, Farage stated he would stand as a candidate for the party in any potential future European Parliament elections contested in the United Kingdom. MEPs Steven Woolfe and Nathan Gill, also formerly of UKIP, stated that they would also stand for the party.
On 1 February 2019, Blaiklock told The Daily Telegraph the party had raised £1 million in donations, and that over 200 people had come forward offering to stand for The Brexit Party at the May 2019 European Parliament election, if the United Kingdom has not left the European Union by then. Private Eye reported that opponents of Brexit had applied online as "candidates, activists or donors with false details" to waste the party's time.
After announcing the party's formation, Blaiklock attracted criticism for earlier comments described as Islamophobic. She resigned as party leader on 20 March 2019 over since-deleted anti-Islam messages on Twitter, including re-tweeting messages by far-right figures including Mark Collett, Tommy Robinson and Joe Walsh. Farage said that he would take over as leader, that Blaiklock was "never intended to be the long-term leader" and that the party "is at the moment a virtual party – it's a website". On the party's launch on 12 April, asked about issues with Blaiklock, Farage said: "I set the party up, she was the administrator that got it set up. We had a couple of teething problems, yes, but are we going to be deeply intolerant of all forms of intolerance? Yes."
In April 2019, the party's treasurer Michael McGough was removed from his position after he was found to have made antisemitic and homophobic social media posts.
In February 2019, nine MEPs who had left UKIP joined the party: Tim Aker, Jonathan Bullock, David Coburn, Bill Etheridge, Nigel Farage, Nathan Gill, Diane James, Paul Nuttall and Julia Reid. All were originally elected as UKIP candidates, but all had previously left the party in opposition to Gerard Batten's leadership, mostly in December 2018. As of April 2019[update], they all continued to sit in the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group. MEP and former UKIP member Steven Woolfe also indicated his support for the party in February.
In mid-April 2019, Jane Collins, Ray Finch, Jill Seymour, and Margot Parker left UKIP to join the Brexit Party. Jonathan Arnott, who had resigned from UKIP three months earlier, also joined the party then, thus bringing the total number of Brexit Party MEPs to 14, being 14 of the 24 who had been elected as UKIP MEPs in 2014. They all sat in the EFDD group. On the deadline to nominate candidates for the May 2019 European Parliament election, it was announced that only three of the incumbent MEPs who joined the party – Farage, Gill and Bullock – had been selected to stand for the Brexit Party.
|Diane James||South East England||1 July 2014||5 February 2019|
|David Coburn||Scotland||1 July 2014||12 February 2019|
|Nigel Farage||South East England||10 June 1999||12 February 2019||Leader of party; successfully sought re-election in 2019|
|Nathan Gill||Wales||1 July 2014||12 February 2019||Former AM; successfully sought re-election in 2019|
|Julia Reid||South West England||1 July 2014||12 February 2019|
|Tim Aker||East of England||1 July 2014||13 February 2019|
|Jonathan Bullock||East Midlands||28 July 2017||13 February 2019||Successfully sought re-election in 2019|
|Bill Etheridge||West Midlands||1 July 2014||13 February 2019|
|Paul Nuttall||North West England||14 July 2009||15 February 2019|
|Jill Seymour||West Midlands||1 July 2014||15 April 2019|
|Jane Collins||Yorkshire and the Humber||1 July 2014||15 April 2019|
|Margot Parker||East Midlands||1 July 2014||15 April 2019|
|Jonathan Arnott||North East England||1 July 2014||17 April 2019|
|Ray Finch||South East England||1 July 2014||17 April 2019|
On 23 May 2019, 26 Brexit Party MEPs were newly elected to the European Parliament, including Richard Tice and former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, while Jonathan Bullock, Nigel Farage and Nathan Gill kept their seats.
On 15 May 2019, four Welsh Assembly Members originally elected or co-opted for UKIP (Caroline Jones, Mandy Jones, Mark Reckless and David Rowlands) joined the Brexit Party. Reckless was appointed as Leader of their Assembly group. One AM, elected as UKIP but by this time sitting as an independent, Michelle Brown, was told she would not be welcome in the party.
Policies and ideology
The party's lead aim is its desire for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union and then trade with countries on World Trade Organization terms. On 12 April 2019, Farage said that there was "no difference between the Brexit party and UKIP in terms of policy, [but] in terms of personnel, there's a vast difference", criticising UKIP's connections to the far right. He also said that the party aimed to attract support "across the board", including from former UKIP voters and from Conservative and Labour voters who supported Brexit. Later in April, Farage said that the party would not publish a manifesto until after the European elections had taken place. Farage has said the party will have a policy platform instead of a manifesto. Farage has described his admiration for how fellow Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy members, Italy's Five Star Movement, have managed to grow from a protest group into the country's largest political party in both houses of the Italian Parliament. He has described the Brexit Party as doing the same kind of thing and "running a company, not a political party, hence our model of registered supporters" and building a base using an online platform.
The British politics professor Matthew Goodwin and The Observer newspaper have described the party as national populists, while Goodwin and others have also described the Brexit Party as populist and right-wing populist.
The party's constitution was published by the Electoral Commission as a result of a freedom of information request in May 2019. It describes the party as seeking to "promote and encourage those who aspire to improve their personal situation and those who seek to be self-reliant, whilst providing protection for those genuinely in need; favour the ability of individuals to make decisions in respect of themselves; seek to diminish the role of the State; lower the burden of taxation on individuals and businesses." SDP politician Patrick O'Flynn, who was elected as a UKIP MEP under Farage's leadership and supported the Brexit Party in the 2019 European elections, commented on the constitution's description of the party as following classical liberalism and ascribed them as having a Thatcherite ideological core. James Glancy, one of the party's MEPs, has compared the party to the Referendum Party, being a "united and diverse group of people from different political backgrounds".
The party's first non-Brexit-related policy was announced on 4 June 2019: a proposition to transform British Steel into a partly worker-owned company, in what has been described as "a hybrid of Conservative and Labour policy".
Funding and structure
Farage has said the party will largely be funded by small donations and that they have raised "£750,000 in donations online, all in small sums of less than £500" in their first ten days. The party also accepts large donations, such as £200,000 donated by Jeremy Hosking, a former donor to the Conservative Party. He further said that the party would not be taking money from the key former UKIP funder Arron Banks. Farage has personally faced questions during the 2019 electoral campaign after Channel 4 News revealed undeclared travel and accommodation benefits provided by Banks before Farage joined the Brexit Party, and on 21 May 2019 the European Parliament formally opened an investigation. In response to the reporting, the Brexit Party banned Channel 4 News from its events.
Two days before the 2019 European election, Farage accused the Electoral Commission of "interfering in the electoral process" after the independent watchdog visited the Brexit Party headquarters for "active oversight and regulation" of party funding. An official donation of £500 or more must be given by a "permissible donor", who should either be somebody listed on the British electoral roll or a business registered at Companies House and operating in Britain. When asked if the party took donations in foreign currency, Farage replied: "Absolutely not, we only take sterling – end of conversation." Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell called for "a full and open and transparent, independent inquiry into the funding of Mr Farage". On Sky News in May 2019, a Scottish National Party MEP, Alyn Smith, claimed that the Brexit Party is "a shell company that’s a money laundering front". The Brexit Party threatened legal action unless Smith retracted the claim. Smith apologised unreservedly and admitted that he had no evidence for his allegation, and made a donation to the party's legal costs as well as to the charity Help for Heroes.
|Catherine Blaiklock||20 January 2019 – 20 March 2019|
|Nigel Farage||22 March 2019 – present|
2019 European Parliament elections
The party stood candidates in Great Britain at the 2019 European elections, including the former Conservative Minister of State Ann Widdecombe, the journalist Annunziata Rees-Mogg (a former Conservative general election candidate and the sister of the Conservative MP and Brexit advocate Jacob Rees-Mogg), the Leave Means Leave co-founder Richard Tice, the writers Claire Fox and James Heartfield (both once part of the Revolutionary Communist Party and later writers for Spiked), James Glancy, a former member of the Royal Marines and the Special Boat Service who was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, Martin Daubney, a journalist and commentator, David Bull, doctor, author and television presenter, Brian Monteith, a former Conservative Party MSP, Rupert Lowe, a businessman and retired Rear Admiral Roger Lane-Nott. John Longworth, the former director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, announced he would be standing as a candidate for the party on 15 April 2019. The party is not registered in Northern Ireland and is not fielding candidates there.
A survey of 781 Conservative Party councillors found that 40% planned to vote for the Brexit Party. On 17 April 2019, the former Labour and Respect Party MP George Galloway announced his support for the Brexit Party "for one-time only" in the 2019 European Parliament election. On 24 April, the political columnist Tim Montgomerie announced that he would vote for the party and endorsed Widdecombe's candidature, and the Conservative MP Lucy Allan described the candidates of the party as "fantastic".
On 2 May, one of the party's candidates for the North West constituency, Sally Bate, resigned from the party in response to previous comments made by Claire Fox, the lead candidate in the constituency, on the Warrington bomb attacks.
The party had 14 seats (acquired through defections) going into the elections, and saw an increase of 15. It won five seats more than UKIP, then under Farage's leadership, had at the previous election.
|Year||Leader||Share of votes||Seats||Change||Position|
29 / 73
The 29 MEPs elected are as follows:
House of Commons
Farage has said the party intends to stand candidates at the next general election. He has promised not to stand candidates against the 28 Eurosceptic Conservative MPs who opposed the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
The party fielded a candidate, Mike Greene, a businessman and local benefactor, in the 2019 Peterborough by-election. The party's candidate came second, losing to the Labour Party candidate by 684 votes.
A councillor elected to Rochdale Borough Council for West Heywood defected to the party in July 2019 from Labour, providing the party with its first sitting councillor. Shortly afterwards, a councillor on the Rochdale Council from the Liberal Democrats also defected to the party.
- Euroscepticism in the United Kingdom
- Opinion polling for 2019 European Parliament election in the UK
- Opinion polling for the next United Kingdom general election
- Referendum Party
- Brexit, Article 50, and other articles – Wikipedia book (includes articles on UK and EU treaties, policies, institutions, law and justice and EU history)
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