Many of the readers of this blog would have preferred to remain in the European Union, but what you probably don’t know is that UKIP leader Paul Nuttall may have shared this view. It’s a bold statement to make, but Nuttall believes leaving is an obsolete concept and the future of nationalism in Europe lies in building a consensus of political parties of a similar view – with UKIP at its head.
BREXIT and leaving the European Union is a nationalistic concept with its origins in the anti-federalist league, anti-common market movement of the 1970’s and later, resistance to the Maastricht treaty.
BREXIT could destroy the best laid plans of Paul Nuttall to form a far-right “super group”.
These events and the internal struggles within the Conservative party over the direction of the country led to splinter groups, which in turn, led to the formation of a political party which had one political position and one issue to address.
UKIP continued along this path until around 2013, when (among other things) the vacuum of the imploding BNP presented the opportunity for a party to seize upon immigration as a key message. Farage, while at heart a pure Eurosceptic, saw the obvious potential of this political position and allowed his strategists to make it the core of his 2015 campaign.
Targeting the fringes of the vote base and exploiting the usual apathy and low turnout allowed UKIP to win the 2014 EU elections. UKIP were of course delighted, they believed a course had been set on the first stage of a possible Brexit. Paul Nuttall saw it differently. Speaking to his close confidants shortly after the election, the now UKIP leader tabled a hypothetical scenario – what if the EU worked for us?
This new concept saw the United Kingdom staying in the European Union, with UKIP fighting and losing a referendum by a short margin. UKIP would then accept the status quo, claim to be the sole legitimate representative of the leave voters and then abandon its position of leaving the EU and present a new case to the British public – working with European nationalists (such as Front National and Sweden Democrats) to take political control of the European Parliament at the 2019 elections.
Nuttall is known to be more open to a formal alliance with Le Pen’s Front National.
The strategy was beta tested almost by mistake after the 2015 general election, when UKIP, despite only winning one seat, claimed to represent “five million people”, and again after the referendum where UKIP claimed to be “the voice” of 17 million leave voters. Thus, UKIP now don’t worry about winning elections, they simply claim to represent whatever percentage of voters balloted for them in any given area and act as an unofficial and unelected opposition.
Immediately following the 2014 European elections work began to form a new grouping inside the EU parliament, UKIP were old hands at cobbling together a loose alliance of splinter groups and political chancers and 2014 was no different, except this time they brought in the Italian Five Star Movement, a left-wing protest party, to give them added legitimacy.
With a group formed and five years of funding secured, Farage turned his sights back to the UK and the upcoming 2015 election. Nuttall meanwhile mobilised his lieutenants in Brussels and began “putting the feelers out” to other, more radical, far right groups.
Our sources at the heart of UKIP’s European operation tell us that Nuttall was keen to form a “Eurosceptic super-group” with Marine Le-Pen of the French Front National. We’re also told that both Farage and Nuttall had several meetings with Front National specifically to discuss the possibility of coming together in the European Parliament.
In the end, Farage decided against it. The sticking point that soured the deal was over speaking time in Strasbourg sessions – Farage (who has a large allocation as a group Co-President) apparently, unwilling to sacrifice any of his speaking opportunities to make room for “heavyweight” Le Pen. Farage, who was focusing on winning seats in Westminster, was also “extremely worried” about how the alliance would be viewed by the British public, and believed the public relations trade off was not worth the possible gains.
Despite the failure to convince his master of the need for a large Eurosceptic bloc in the parliament, the apprentice Nuttall continued to indulge in the formation of a pan-European movement. He was the key figure in the formation of the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE), a pan-European political party and the Institute for Direct Democracy in Europe (IDDE), a ‘think tank’ which runs parallel to UKIP’s EFDD group operation in Brussels. The foundation and party and funded from the EU budget and have access to EU resources but do not require seats in the parliament as a pre-requisite for membership.
Paul Nuttall’s attempts to build a far-right alliance to take over the European institutions has not been without resistance within his own party. We are reliably informed that “pure Brexiters” who simply want to disengage from the EU and move on have vetoed some attempts over the years to bring extreme and far right parties into UKIP’s group.
Of course this did not stop them sitting with among others, Lega Nord. UKIP’s MEPs have always accepted far right alliances to gain access to EU funding. Only Nikki Sinclaire had the strength of conviction to resign rather than sit with extremists when she refused to be part of the EFD group in 2010.
Farage with has formed a strong connection with the far right in Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic.
So while he initially supported leaving the EU, Nuttall has moved on and sees Brexit as an obsolete concept. His personal views have “evolved” and he now believes that Europe’s problems (as he sees them) need a European solution; that immigration and other issues which are important to the far right such as a perceived “Islamic invasion” can only be addressed through the seizure of power in the EU. His new dream – turning the power of the institutions into tools of the populist base he wishes to construct across Europe.
The negotiations surrounding the possible inclusion of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) stand as a good example. A senior UKIP adviser who does not wish to be named told us that he was given the task of preparing a briefing on the FPÖ for UKIP MEPs, however, when he presented his findings to Nuttall and Roger Helmer he was ordered to re-write the briefing so it would show the Austrians in less extreme light. The adviser tells us that he did so and that the briefing was accepted.
UKIP MEPs including Ray Finch and Paul Nuttall then arranged a meeting with the FPÖ delegation at a Brussels restaurant. According to an adviser who was present at the meeting, the talks failed as the Austrians “didn’t take UKIP seriously” as a result of Finch’s “drunkard and unprofessional approach to diplomacy”. They elected to join Le Pen’s ENF group later that year.
Finch’s inability to handle his drink allegedly “blew the Austrian deal” for Nuttall.
The referendum campaign which was based on fear and falsehoods is a glimpse into the future of the populist right. It showed us how parties like UKIP have manipulated genuine concerns and criticism into their own warped worldview to benefit their own ongoing political programme.
The new generation of UKIP leaders and senior advisers around Nuttall had accepted defeat in the referendum before it had even been voted on and they were surprised and shocked by the result. For them, the next European election, and not Brexit was the focus. Now the focus is on salvaging their own jobs and prospects, leaving with as much EU money as they can carry before they are forced to scurry back through the channel tunnel
Now, the mantle of European populism and right wing radicalism will be seized upon by Marine Le Pen, who will implement her own version of Nuttall’s vision. It’s easy to see UKIP as no longer relevant – after all they are collapsing in front of our eyes. But the core of the party, the most fundamentalist part will remain and may indeed become more extreme; especially as more moderate members who simply saw them as a protest vehicle melt away.
With nothing to lose and time ticking down until the arrival of Brexit, possibly as soon as late 2018, Nuttall may throw his cards on the table and play his biggest hand and attempt to make his ‘super group’ a reality.