Arron Banks is the man of the moment in Doncaster: Nigel Farage said in his speech he was ‘massively impressed’ with his efforts to bring the different Eurosceptic camps together. I caught up with the Ukip donor and founder of the Leave.EU campaign to chat about the referendum and what he hopes his new group will achieve — you can watch the interview above. Banks explained what his umbrella group is about:
‘We’ve been out to all the leading Eurosceptic campaigns – they haven’t always been the best of friends. There’s seven of them, including Ukip, Bruges Group, Democracy Movement, all different groupings and effectively we’re trying to bring them together under one umbrella to support what we’re doing, which is a non-political campaign.’
Given that Farage and Banks are close, it might look as if Leave.EU is just a front for Ukip’s referendum campaign. Banks denies they are one and the same thing:
‘We are different from Ukip, we’ve got 60 people working in an office out of Bristol, we’ve got a big social media operation, we’ve got different people coming onto the campaign — businessmen, sportsmen, all sorts of different people. We’ve also hired a chief strategist from America that’s probably the best person in the world to fight referendums. Out of 30 referendums, he’s won 30 and I think the other two were pulled funnily enough so his track record is 100 per cent. So Nigel is part of it but he’s not the only game in town.’
But while the Ukip leader said earlier that all Eurosceptic groups have been brought together under Leave.EU, the other Leave campaign (run by Matthew Elliott and Dominic Cummings) have not signed up. Banks said this is because they are waiting to see what David Cameron brings back in his renegotiation:
‘Well I’m not sure they’re Eurosceptic, they haven’t said if they’re In or Out. They’re waiting for the Prime Ministers renegotiations. Dominic Cummings says he wants two referendums [in reference to this blog], I’m not too sure how that works. But from our point of view, we’ve met with Matthew Elliott on three separate occasions, we’ve asked him to come into the grouping and his basic bottom line is that they haven’t said that they’re Out so how can they join an umbrella who want to be Out when they’re not Out.’
One of the dividing lines between the Elliott-Cummings camp and Leave.EU is on the issues the referendum will be fought on. Whereas the former group believe economic and jobs security are the main issues, Banks believes ‘immigration will be the number one’ followed by the economy.
And finally, we discussed the story of the day: an altercation with Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell. Banks confirmed that:
‘Douglas had a few strong words with me, not the other way around. I wished him well and went on my way.’
Banks said he believed Carswell ‘took an exception to something written in the Guardian‘ but would still be happy to work with Carswell:
‘Absolutely, he’s part of the Business for Britain group – maybe he’s a little bit put out about today’s announcement, I don’t know. But from our prospective we’ll work with anyone who is interested in getting Britain out of the European Union.’
You can see what Carswell told Coffee House here about the altercation and why he’s minded not to back Banks’ campaign.