The UKIP leadership contest is pivotal for the future of the Party.

Jonathan Arnott

Speaking as a UKIP MEP, I think it’s no exaggeration to suggest that the wrong decision now could spell the death-knell for the party.

If a candidate is elected who moves the party towards a bland, establishment-style politics, too far away from its core vote and demographics, we lose the basis of our electoral appeal.

If, on the other hand, the party lurches too far to the Right, then it’ll be a mirror image of the Labour Party’s mistake in choosing Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

The job description is pretty tough. We need a candidate who isn’t in one ‘faction’ or another, someone who can truly unite the party.

We need a candidate who is UKIP through and through, who has been a member through the good times and the bad, who has the capacity to be unfazed and not panic because they personally have experience of going through worse times and navigating us out through the other end.

Given the internal problems within UKIP, we need a candidate with vast experience of the inner workings of the party. We need a candidate who has experience of full-time elected office. We need a candidate who can appeal to working-class people – how else can we take advantage of the disconnect between Corbyn and traditional Labour voters?

I’m going to admit something that I never thought I would have to say. Three weeks ago, I had almost given up hope. I knew that if I stood for the party leadership I wouldn’t get enough support to win, and I couldn’t see another candidate with the slightest hope of uniting us.

I was preparing for the worst, as many were, fearing that the party would shatter into a thousand ugly pieces.

There was the altercation in Strasbourg between two of my colleagues. After 15 years of loyal service to the party, there was a part of me that felt like giving up and walking away.

Yet, in the days that followed, something remarkable happened. The mood in UKIP changed almost overnight; the party collectively woke up to the existential threat that we faced. There was suddenly a desire to unite, to find compromise, to work together once more.

But there was still no candidate for leader. I had despondent conversations with one of my trusted MEP friends. He, like me, lacked the profile to be able to win a leadership contest. We both knew what needed to be done; neither of us could do it.

Then came the game-changer: Paul Nuttall agreed to put party first, sacrificing much in his personal life to do so, and stand for party leader. The future of UKIP suddenly seemed much brighter with the only qualified candidate to follow Nigel ready and willing to take on the job.

I believe that the coming days we’ll see a serious coalescing of support amongst UKIP’s MEPs for Paul Nuttall as the next leader. He’s been a member of the party since, I think, 2004. His blood runs purple, and to him the survival of UKIP matters personally. When he took over as party chairman in 2008, the party was in an even worse state than it is in today – I remember being utterly horrified by what happened in September 2008. Under Paul’s chairmanship, the party was back on track by the European elections in 2009, where we had a huge breakthrough.

What does this mean for the North East? I note the words of Labour’s Brendan Chilton (General Secretary of Labour Leave – and one of the Labour people to truly understand the Brexit vote) this morning: “If Paul Nuttall wins the UKIP leadership, my party, Labour, will be fighting for its life in the heartlands.” This stark, rare, honest analysis is spot on in my view.

A Paul Nuttall-led UKIP will be a UKIP led by a Northerner, someone who understands the North and has spent plenty of time in the North East. He’s spent more time here than any other national UKIP figure, visiting Gateshead, Newcastle, Blyth, Sunderland, North Shields, Hartlepool, Redcar, Middlesbrough and others, many multiple times.

He’s shown a commitment to the North East, understands how to take the fight to Labour, and is vastly experienced politically.

If I were the Labour Party, I would be very worried indeed about Paul winning. As a UKIP MEP, I’m delighted to endorse him.

Brexit doesn’t mean isolationism

Last week, the government announced an increase in Britain’s NATO deployment to Eastern Europe. We’ll be sending more troops to Estonia, and fighter jets to Romania. It’s a timely reminder that, pace Project Fear, Brexit doesn’t mean we stop cooperating with our European allies.

Remainers often tell us that the EU will punish us for voting Leave with a bad deal. Political posturing by European politicians is taken at face value and cited as evidence.

But that line of argument is specious. Not just because a spiteful, adolescent negotiation is in nobody’s interests. But because our relationships with our neighbours in Europe go deeper than the EU.

Our defence cooperation – through NATO – predates the EU by decades. Our trading relationship goes back centuries before that.

Even tariff-free trade long predates the European customs union. It’s over a century and half since Britain first signed a free-trade agreement with France.

British Europhiles still seem to look at our relationship with Europe in purely binary terms: either we’re part of a European superstate, or we’re cut off from the continent.

Yet Britain doesn’t need to be in a political union either to trade with European countries, or to cooperate in areas of mutual interest.

There are more – and better – ways to play a constructive role in both Europe and the world. Taking back control gives us the freedom to do so.

Experts, eh?

The latest GDP figures show our economy grew in the third quarter, rather than shrinking as the “experts” predicted. Pundits tell us growth happened “despite Brexit”. Shouldn’t that be despite the technocratic elite’s unshakeable faith in the European project?

The data proves many “expert” predictions about the economic consequences of a Leave vote false. Supposedly authoritative sources, from the IMF to the OECD to the IFS, told us our economy would contract this year. Not after Brexit. Now.

Naturally, some are still trying to present their predictions as true. “Maybe the economy is growing now”, they say. “But wait until Article 50 is triggered. Wait until we actually leave the EU.”

Yet all their spin reveals is that the idea Brexit would cause an economic slowdown was never a scientific theory, to be tested against facts, but an article of faith.

In a sense, that’s not surprising. Economic models reflect the assumptions on which they’re based. The trouble is these assumptions are often absurd.

The 364 economists who incorrectly informed Margaret Thatcher that raising taxes to curb government borrowing would be economically disastrous based their warning on the dogma – derived from John Maynard Keynes – that government should borrow and spend during downturns.

As did the IMF three years ago when it wrongly warned that modest cuts to public spending would cause another recession.

Gordon Brown’s ludicrous belief that he had “abolished boom and bust” – shared by central bankers and economists at the time – was based on the monetarist mantra that bureaucrats can manage the money supply better than the market.

The Treasury’s forecast of a huge post-Brexit slump is based on the equally preposterous premise that the UK would fail to strike not just a free-trade agreement with the EU, but any new free-trade agreements with non-EU countries.

Throughout human history, the only thing that has consistently produced economic growth is economic freedom. The over-regulated single market restricts economic freedom. That’s a big reason why those of us who recognise the importance of free markets and free trade campaigned to Leave.

For all that Keynes was wrong about economic theory, he was right when he wrote that “practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist”.

Let’s not be slaves to the live ones either.

Is the Project Fear coalition collapsing?

The Guardian thinks it’s a scoop that the PM, who openly campaigned to Remain, campaigned to Remain. It’s less bothered that Jeremy Corbyn – one of Parliament’s staunchest Eurosceptics – is now parroting Project Fear. Fortunately, he looks to be in a shrinking minority.

Guardianistas might not have noticed, but Theresa May isn’t the only Remainer to change her tune on Brexit. The international bodies George Osborne wheeled out to bully us into voting Remain have quietly switched course too.

The IMF has said that, far from suffering the post-referendum slump it originally forecast, the UK is set to be the fastest-growing economy in the G7 this year.

The World Bank, which just a few months ago blamed Brexit for a global slowdown, today claims the UK is the best developed economy in which to do business.

Now the head of the World Trade Organisation, who had warned us it would be tortuous to renegotiate the terms of our membership of his association, says actually there needn’t be any disruption after all.

The fact that these international bodies have swallowed their words so easily gives the lie to the notion that they are independent, objective observers.

In reality, as you might expect from organisations so often led by ex-politicians, they are political. Their “expert” wisdom should be treated with caution.

But it reveals something else too. Now that Brexit is a reality, not just a prospect, the game has changed. These bodies now have an incentive to be constructive, rather than obstructive.

Maybe the Remain rearguard in Fleet Street – not to mention Westminster – can learn something from their “expert” idols after all.

Even Remainers know Brexit means leaving the single market

During the referendum campaign, there was one thing Remainers and Leavers agreed on: that a vote to Leave meant leaving the European single market. Who are Nick Clegg and co. kidding by denying that now?

One of the Remain rearguard’s transparent attempts to subvert the referendum result is to make out that Leave voters didn’t know what they were voting for. “17.4 million people might have voted for Brexit”, they say. “But they didn’t vote for a particular kind of Brexit”.

“Brexit”, they expect us to believe, is just an empty word. It can mean anything you want it to mean. What the majority thought it meant when they voted for it is an unfathomable mystery.

Except, as anyone who was hasn’t erased their memory of the last nine months knows, it’s not. Throughout the referendum campaign, Brexit campaigners consistently made it clear what a vote to Leave meant. In short:

  • No more EU budget contributions
  • No more freedom of movement
  • Full Parliamentary sovereignty
  • Control over our trade policy – by leaving European customs union
  • Access to – but not membership of – the European single market

The fact that a Leave vote entailed leaving the single market was always a key plank of the Leave campaign. But it wasn’t just Brexiteers who said so – although we did, repeatedly. Remainers said so too. The evidence, conveniently compiled by the Daily Politics, is clear (H/T Guido Fawkes).

Voters weren’t kept in the dark. On the contrary: the majority made a deliberate choice to quit the single market.

Why?

Not because they didn’t know what it meant, but because they did. Because single-market membership entails accepting the four freedoms, including freedom of movement. Because – above all – it means Britain couldn’t become a sovereign nation again.

Staying in the single market would mean many of Britain’s laws would still be made by a foreign, supra-national government without the consent of the British people. The question as to who should make Britain’s laws wasn’t a side issue in the referendum campaign. It was absolutely central.

Apparently it’s too much to expect that trying to impose an outcome that the majority of voters expressly rejected would be beneath the dignity of elected representatives. But they should know better than to think voters won’t notice.

Tony – not Hilary – Benn should be MPs’ guide to Brexit

MPs have voted for Remainer Hilary Benn to chair the Brexit select committee, rather than Leaver Kate Hoey. The rest of the committee has been agreed behind closed doors by the big parties – so no space for me as UKIP’s only MP. Do Parliamentarians really think this is how representative democracy is supposed to work?

Three months since the referendum, many MPs still haven’t come to terms with the outcome. In fact, they’re still trying to undermine it.

Despite 17.4 million people voting to take back control of our laws, our borders, and our trade policy, some MPs disingenuously claim that Brexit can mean staying inside the European single market and customs union. They think Parliament has the right to block Article 50.

Choosing Hilary Benn – by a margin of 330 votes to 209 – to chair the committee that will scrutinise the work of David Davis and his department is merely Parliament’s latest attempt by to block Brexit.

For a brief period, it looked like the referendum might be a wake-up call to the self-serving cartel that dominates Westminster. Apparently not. MPs still seem to think they can get away with ignoring the people they are elected to represent.

This is a dangerous route to go down. The most cocooned of Westminster insiders may not have noticed, but respect for politicians is already at rock-bottom – with good reason. By setting themselves up in opposition to the Brexit majority, MPs risk doing serious damage to public faith in representative democracy. If that happens, what then?

Fans of Hilary Benn might be better advised to heed the words of his late father: “The Parliamentary democracy we have developed and established in Britain is based, not upon the sovereignty of Parliament, but upon the sovereignty of the People”.

Tony Benn wrote those words in a letter to constituents forty years ago. They were part of his case against staying in the European common market.

Maybe forty years of common-market membership have made Parliament forget what it’s for. Now that we’re leaving, it’s about time MPs remembered.

Britain didn’t vote against globalisation

“Brexit was a rejection of globalisation”, glib pundits often tell us. It seems to have escaped their notice that quitting the EU customs union to trade freely with the world was a big plank of the Leave campaign. Britain is fast becoming one of the few countries in the world with broad public support for free trade – and we need to harness it.

Free trade and prosperity go hand in hand. The division of labour – enabling specialisation – is infinitely more efficient than self-sufficiency. As Smith and Ricardo realised over 200 years ago, doing what you’re best at and exchanging your product for everything else you need is the way to get maximum return on your labour.

What works for individuals applies to countries too. We are wealthier as a nation by virtue of our businesses specialising in fields in which they have a comparative advantage, and trading their goods and services internationally, than we would be if we tried to produce everything we wanted at home.

Yet, around the world, free trade is facing a backlash. The Doha trade round collapsed. The corporatist fixes the EU calls trade deals keep stalling. And, for the first time in half a century, both the Republican and Democratic candidates for the presidency are running on protectionist platforms.

In this context, it’s particularly welcome that Theresa May, along with the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, have made promoting free trade a priority.

But it’s also important to rebut the idea that 17.4 million voted against it. Taking back control from an unelected, foreign government was never about raising barriers to trade.

You don’t need to give up control over your laws or your borders to trade freely with people in other countries. Pundits may not be able to understand that, but the people do.

‘Industrial strategy’ is the kiss of death to progress

George Osborne, Michael Heseltine, and Vince Cable returned yesterday to lecture the Business Select Committee on why politicians like them should impose an ‘industrial strategy’ on the country from Whitehall. Could there be a better illustration of why central economic planning is a bad idea?

Who forecast twenty years ago that Google, Facebook, or Amazon would now be among the biggest companies in the world? Certainly not politicians or officials.

All three are the result of disruptive innovation – what the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter called ‘creative destruction’. They succeeded because they offered consumers something that superseded existing products on the market.

The process by which we become better off involves radical change. Few people see it coming – after all, most start-ups fail. But the driving force is always the same: consumer demand.

Which is why the idea of ‘industrial strategy’ – driven not by consumers but by ministers and mandarins – is absurd. Not just because government fails to spot future demand. But because it actively holds back progress, by artificially perpetuating the products of the present.

Take one of George’s signature white elephants: Hinkley Point. Even leaving aside the eye-wateringly high strike price – double the market rate – the project rests on a very shaky assumption: that nuclear technology will be an efficient way to produce energy when the plant opens in some ten years’ time. The long-term trend suggests solar power is the technology making big strides in efficiency, while nuclear is stagnating.

That’s not to say government should subsidise solar instead. It shouldn’t. Subsidy served to extinguish a company’s incentive to make a product that can successfully compete on the market. (Solyndra in the US was perhaps a case in point.)

The point is that even if preferential treatment of particular sectors or businesses didn’t create perverse incentives, it would still negatively distort the market. Instead of backing what will be big in twenty years, government tends to favour what’s fashionable now. Rather than foster disruptive innovation, it entrenches the status quo.

Osborne praised Cameron and May for committing to industrial strategy, which, he said, “was not always in the Conservative lexicon”. There’s good reason for that. The last Tory PM to prioritise industrial strategy was Ted Heath – and look how that worked out.

When governments try to micromanage markets, progress and prosperity suffer. If that’s what we’re likely to get from the new government, there’s all the more need for a libertarian alternative.

Control must belong to the British people – not political elites

Parliament is a proxy for the will of the people. Taking back control from Brussels to Westminster is ultimately about restoring power to the British people. Those Remain MPs still trying to use Parliament to thwart the popular will by blocking Brexit have forgotten whom they work for.

The reason Article 50 doesn’t require Parliamentary approval is very simple: the majority voted for it directly in the referendum. Why do we need the people’s representatives to sanction something that the people have already approved?

The only possible purpose in holding a Commons vote on Article 50 would be to block it. The new Shadow Brexit Secretary may have disingenuously denied it at the despatch box, but it’s clear recalcitrant Remainers aren’t really asking for a vote, but for a veto.

Parliament’s newest champions over Article 50 have been strangely silent on the Great Repeal Bill, which will revoke the European Communities Act and restore Parliamentary sovereignty. That bill will go before the House. So why haven’t they declared their support for it? Could it be perhaps because they will vote against it?

For long-time Eurosceptics, it’s incredible to watch the case for Brexit now being made by government ministers. But it’s perhaps even more remarkable to see mostly Labour MPs – who pretend to stand for workers – brazenly representing the ruling classes in opposition to their own constituents.

Margaret Thatcher once said, “we didn’t roll back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them reimposed at the European level”. By the same token, we didn’t vote to end anti-democratic rule from Brussels only to see it re-established by establishment elites in Westminster.

Control belongs to the people. Parliament cannot refuse it to them.

Is this life after Osbrown?

Ever since the Nixon shock in 1971, loose monetary policy has been the norm. Even though the results have been disastrous, policymakers always insist the alternative is worse. But that could be about to change.

Much of Theresa May’s domestic agenda raises serious cause for concern. But there was one part of her conference speech which was encouraging: she admitted monetary stimulus has caused growing inequality by stoking asset-price inflation – and she said that needed to change.

She’s right. Asset-price inflation transfers wealth from producers to parasites. There’s only one word for it: malinvestment. Misesian monetary theory, it seems, is going mainstream.

But what does the PM’s critique mean in practice? The Bank of England is responsible for interest rates and quantitative easing, and it is independent from the Treasury. Downing Street has already denied any suggestion of changing that arrangement.

Indeed, even if the government could convince the Bank to tighten monetary policy, it wouldn’t be enough by itself to limit asset-price inflation.

A lot of the monetary expansion behind asset-price inflation doesn’t come from central banks, but from retail banks. Fractional reserve banking – whereby only a fraction of demand deposits are available for withdrawal – facilitates vast credit creation, much of which flows straight into the property market.

In fact, banks are encouraged to keep reserves low and lending dangerously high by the safety net of not just emergency central-bank bailouts but also government-backed deposit insurance.

Asset-price inflation happens because banks know they can privatise profits, but socialise losses. If the PM is serious about addressing it, that’s the perverse incentive she needs to end.

Reports suggest the precise change in policy direction will be announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. After eleven years of listening to Brown, Darling, and Osborne, that might finally be something I look forward to.