Nigel Farage’s keynote speech to the Ukip conference was duly lapped up the 1,500 attendees in Doncaster. The Ukip leader was keen to give himself a new job: the de facto leader of the Leave campaign. In the absence of someone heading up the Leave campaign, the Ukip leader said it’s time for the party to prioritise the referendum over its own future:
‘I want us to summon every resource of energy we can find in our bodies and our minds. I want to dedicate us wholly to winning that referendum. This is the moment to put country before party.’
Farage stated the Eurosceptic movement has ‘very often been fractured, it has very often been divided’ and ‘run by egomaniacs’. But Leave.EU, one of the campaigns vying for the official Electoral Commission designation for the Leave campaign, and its leader Arron Banks have ‘massively impressed’ him and said they have managed to bring ‘every single of of those groups together’. Coffee House understands that those who have come under the Banks umbrella include The Bruges Group, Global Britain, the Democracy Movement and the Campaign for an Independent Britain. As a result, Farage believes that a Brexit is now going to happen:
‘We are together, we are united and I believe that the tide has turned; I think something is changing out there and I believe we’re on course to win the most historic and the most important political victory in any of our lifetimes.’
But there are some groups missing from the Banks umbrella: Business for Britain and the Matthew Elliott/Dominic Cummings Leave campaign. Business for Britain is a campaigning group run by Elliot, which aims to give a voice to Eurosceptic businesses. It is affiliated to the Elliott-Cummings Leave campaign — which Douglas Carswell has been involved with — but that side has yet to launch.
BfB is arguing that the EU needs to radically change or Britain should leave. Therefore, it has yet to formally back a Brexit. Rob Oxley, Business for Britain’s campaigns director, confirmed that neither BfB or the Elliott-Cummings campaign are affiliated under Banks’ group:
‘We wish the Banks/Ukip campaign well. They’re going to do well in this but to win the referendum, it’s going to take a cross party campaign which needs to get voters and MPs from all sides and I think that what’s going to legitimately win the campaign but you know, good luck to them.’
I caught up with Farage after his speech and he described the umbrella organisation as a ‘remarkable achievement’ but said the Elliott-Cummings camp are waiting too long:
‘But they don’t want to leave? They want to wait and see what the Prime Minister has come back with. That’s no blooming good, we’ll have lost the war by then’
Based on Farage’s speech, it’s clear that the Leave.EU campaign and Ukip are now intertwined and will be working closely together, while the Business for Britain camps will be working separately. The question remains how Conservative and Labour Eurosceptics will feel about this new umbrella group, as the Elliott-Cummings campaign has been focused on the moderate soft Eurosceptic voters and reaching out to all parties, while Banks and Ukip have a bond over borders and immigration. Although this was an attempt by Farage and Ukip to seize the referendum agenda, the two opposing sides and strategy haven’t changed.