Wednesday, 30 March 2016
Will UKIP Cease to Exist after the EU Referendum?
As the moment approaches for which the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) have dreamed about for over twenty years, that is, the referendum on the UK’s continued, or not, membership of the European Union (EU), what lies ahead for the party after the vote?
Well, it probably depends on the result of the referendum, of which, I think, one of three scenarios will occur.
First, if the UK votes for Brexit, then UKIP’s job is pretty much done. They will have achieved their goal of separating us from the EU, and so their members may decide that it is now safe to re-join the Conservative Party (from whence many have come) and be part of a Eurosceptic party, in government. This may though be a problem for some of their best known ex Conservative members, MP Douglas Carswell and ex (Conservative) MP Neil Hamilton, who might not be welcomed back into the fold. But, by and large, I think that will be the attitude of most UKIP members, and they will probably feel at home, in what will surely be a Eurosceptic Conservative Party after a vote to leave the EU. So, it is probably curtains for UKIP in this scenario, as they will have lost their whole raison d’etre.
The second possibility is a large win for staying in the EU, say 60/40, in which case the whole issue of our EU membership will be put to bed for at least a generation and probably more. The country will have decisively rejected the idea of leaving the EU, and I expect the matter will fall away from the public’s consciousness and UKIP will dwindle in members and supporters, until it finally fades away entirely. I will put a rider on this, because the anti-establishment feeling around at the moment, here and elsewhere in the world, could maybe still sustain UKIP but a name change might be necessary, UKP perhaps?
The third outcome of the referendum may be a narrow win for staying in the EU, which is currently how the opinion polls are looking. In this case, although disappointed, UKIP may be emboldened in the same way that the Scottish National Party (SNP) was after the unsuccessful Scottish independence referendum in 2014. This is the best case scenario for UKIP, in terms of keeping the party intact, where they will cry foul about the whole establishment being against them, and continue to press for Brexit as business as usual. Even this outcome though will still call into question the point of UKIP, so they will need to do some re-inventing of themselves.
Whatever the result of the referendum, I think there is one thing we can be sure of, there will be a split in UKIP. They have barely kept the lid on the tensions within their ranks since last year’s general election.
UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage has been in a running battle with UKIP’s MP, Douglas Carswell for months now, and similarly with ex Chair and rising star of the party Suzanne Evans who was sacked as Chair for disloyalty to the great leader. Once the referendum is out of the way, there will be an almighty struggle for the party or what is left of it.
I hope they do tear themselves apart, along with Tories who are also limbering up for a fight post referendum. It may be the only good thing that comes out of this referendum is two civil wars on the right of the political spectrum. It should make for entertaining viewing.