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The Brexit Party Offered Brexit Voters a Choice

Summary:
Now we know that Nigel Farage does compromise. The Brexit Party is standing down its prospective parliamentary candidates in each of the 317 seats won by the Tories in the 2017 election. Better to have Brexit under Boris than risk a second referendum under Labour, explained Nigel the pragmatist – despite having spent the past fortnight arguing, convincingly, that Boris’s deal isn’t actually Brexit at all. This is a slap in the face for everyone who in 2016 voted to leave the EU in order to take back control. It’s a two-fingered salute to all of us who considered Brexit to be about something much bigger and more important than concocted deals and agreements reached behind closed doors. For many voters, Brexit was about wrestling

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Now we know that Nigel Farage does compromise. The Brexit Party is standing down its prospective parliamentary candidates in each of the 317 seats won by the Tories in the 2017 election. Better to have Brexit under Boris than risk a second referendum under Labour, explained Nigel the pragmatist – despite having spent the past fortnight arguing, convincingly, that Boris’s deal isn’t actually Brexit at all.

This is a slap in the face for everyone who in 2016 voted to leave the EU in order to take back control. It’s a two-fingered salute to all of us who considered Brexit to be about something much bigger and more important than concocted deals and agreements reached behind closed doors. For many voters, Brexit was about wrestling back democratic control not just from Brussels-based bureaucrats, but also from our own political class. Farage’s decision to pull candidates from so many constituencies risks putting politics back out of the reach of regular people.

The Brexit Party has played a vital role in defending the referendum result. It provided a genuine option for Leave voters in this year’s EU elections – elections that were never supposed to happen and were held at a time when Theresa May (remember her?) hoped to push through parliament a deal worse than remaining in the EU. If it wasn’t for the Brexit Party, May might still be prime minister, Boris would never have renegotiated a deal with the EU, and we wouldn’t be having a General Election now. The Brexit Party made democracy meaningful when just about every other party wished it would go away.

But with this decision to stand down candidates, politics risks going back to being an elite stitch-up. Clearly, there is a pragmatic argument that, under our first-past-the-post electoral system, the Brexit Party could have split the Leave vote and inadvertently helped usher in a hung parliament. Worse, it could have led to a Remainer-filled House of Commons determined to push through a second referendum that would do far more damage to democracy than even Boris’s deal.

This was always on the cards. With hindsight, perhaps the Brexit Party should have campaigned more for democratic reform and proportional representation, two of its more interesting proposals, rather than the abolition of inheritance tax and free WiFi on buses. Nonetheless, as Brendan O’Neill has pointed out on spiked, Farage’s compromise could allow the electorate to give the anti-democrats a bloody nose, even if it also calls into question the Brexit Party’s claim to be a principled party committed to leaving the EU and upholding democracy.

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