Hard-liners fear the Brexit they voted for won't be delivered
Nigel Farage leads Brexit vanguard with fiery rhetoric amid EU-UK stalemate
More than 27 months have elapsed since British voters chose to leave the EU but the movement that won that famous victory is to mobilise again to ensure the country does indeed get over the line and quit the European bloc.
A series of nationwide rallies have got underway to raise the pressure on politicians not to fall into an 11th hour betrayal by failing to deliver on the slogan coined by Theresa May, the prime minister, that “Brexit means Brexit”.
Striding down the walkway of a packed-out conference hall, rock music blaring with bodyguards front and behind, arch Brexiteer Nigel Farage smugly nods at and shakes hands with the raucous onlookers. Waving their UK flags and screaming “we want Nigel for Prime Minister,” pro-leave supporters from the coastal town of Bournemouth had come to listen to Brexit’s greatest cheerleader.
“We shouldn’t even have to be here today. This is not even about debating the merits of the issues, it’s not even about why we should have control of our borders, why we should give away vast sums of money, why we should be free to open up to the rest of world. All of those arguments have been had and been won,” Mr Farage told the 2000-strong crowd.
“This campaign is not about left and right, it’s about right and wrong. This campaign is about something more fundamental. This campaign is a matter of trust. All we are asking for is leave means leave. We are simply asking our politicians to do what they promised,” he said.
Speaking alongside a raft of prominent Brexiteers, Mr Farage stood in front of a smattering posters with a single objective: ‘Save Brexit,’ ‘Leave Means Leave,’ and ‘No Deal, No Problem.’
The event had the air of a jingoistic pantomime as Mr Farage revved up an already boisterous crowd by leading a chorus of boos against Brexit’s ‘enemies.’ Among those to feel the heat were former US president Barack Obama, “that awful pasty-faced man (George) Osbourne,” the previous UK Chancellor, and ex-prime minister Tony Blair, who attracted the most vitriol.
As Brexit negotiations teeter towards the cliff edge, the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland has become the major dividing line over a proposed ‘backstop’ agreement. Sammy Wilson, the Brexit spokesman for Northern Ireland’s Democratic Union Party questioned who could enforce a ‘hard border’ between the two neighbours.
“This idea of a hard border - whose going to put this hard border up? The government of London won’t, Dublin say they won’t,” he told the crowd.
Mr Wilson accused the EU of failing to understand, or know where, Belfast’s position and said Mrs May had allowed herself to be messed around by Brussels.
“If they had any knowledge of our past they would know 50,000 troops, watchtowers, roads blowing up, electronic listening, constant patrolling – these couldn’t close the border!” he said.
“We were told (Brexit) would be a disaster, we were told plagues of black locusts would descend on our lands and despite it all we went out in the greatest democratic exercise of this nation,” Mr Farage said.
But amid the energy, there was anxiety and uncertainty as to whether their vision of Brexit would be upheld. Onlookers were urged to write to their MP’s to press for a Brexit that “delivered on its promise.”
This was not a political discussion but a rousing 11th hour intervention designed to heap pressure on Mrs May to deliver, in the eyes of those present, what they voted for – a hard Brexit.
Linda Smith, a 64-year-old who runs a business in nearby Poole employing 60 people, said the domination of the UK and EU by bureaucrats forced her to vote leave.
“No-deal is now the best way forward but we could have done this two years ago. Instead we’ve had politicians talking and not driving this to suit their own ends. We’ve done what we needed to do and bit the bullet but I’m still not feeling confident at all about it,” she told The National.
Mr Farage and his companions split opinion like almost no other. Outside the conference hall a small band of Remain protesters sang songs including the lyrics “Farage is a traitor.” They also called on Mrs May to allow a people’s vote on the final deal.
Still, this did little to dampen the confidence that a no-deal Brexit would work. Walking in, a man with a Union Jack blazer and shoes chuckled at the small-scale demonstration: “Oh so that’s the protesters,” he said. “They’d have been no good in the war. There’d be no fuss if we lost,” his friend added.
Conor Burns, the local MP and former personal private secretary to prominent Brexiteer Boris Johnson, offered a sarcastic apology: “my friends, you will have seen them outside, that small bedraggled little group waving their placards. Many of which pose a question – is Brexit worth it? Well my friends, yes it is.”