Dr Dan Boucher is the lead Conservative Candidate for Wales in the European Elections. He lives in Swansea and contested Swansea East at the 2017 general election, and the 2014 European election.
Given that I campaigned vigorously for Brexit, some have questioned why I have not sought to join the Brexit Party and why, instead, I am standing in the European elections for the Conservative Party, which has so far failed to deliver Brexit.
My response to this includes, among other things, the following considerations:
First, in the context of minority government, the failure to deliver Brexit is really the failure of Parliament rather than a failure of the Conservative Party (although division in the ranks has not helped), something I wrote about in a recent ConservativeHome article. Parliament has had the option of delivering Brexit but, to date, has chosen not to.
Second, delivering Brexit is only the beginning. In some ways the bigger question for me is” what will we do with it? How will we make it deliver for the people of the United Kingdom? This is not just a question of how we get free, but of how we use our new found freedom.
My difficulty with the Farage vision is that it seems to be very much a short-term vision of protest, of wanting to leave the EU (which is important) – but what then?
Some time ago, I sat next to a former UKIP MEP at a dinner who explained that he had spent a great deal of time trying to persuade r Farage of the need to develop a compelling positive vision for government. In the end it was the failure of Farage to engage with, and take seriously, the idea that UKIP needed a vision for government that went beyond simply leaving the EU, that resulted in the MEP in question leaving UKIP for the Conservative Party.
This experience was entirely consistent with Farage’s actions after the referendum when he resigned as the leader of UKIP. In explaining this decision, he said that his motivation for political engagement was simply to leave the EU. With the referendum won and – he assumed – our leaving the EU secure, Farage said: “I feel I have done my bit. I couldn’t possibly achieve more than we did in that referendum. I stand aside. I won’t be changing my mind again, I promise you.”
Now he is back with his new party, the Brexit Party, but with basically the same modus operandi as before.
Those who might be attracted by this party are being tempted to protest but, while I can certainly see its appeal after the frustrations of the last two years, I suggest we need MEPs from a party whose commitment is not just informed by the desire to leave but also by a vision of what we should do when we have left (which will, of course, impact our leaving).
This requires a party of government rather than a party of protest.
That is why it is so very important that Conservatives, committed to delivering a credible Brexit that really honours the 2016 referendum, giving it every chance to succeed, are elected in significant numbers as MEPs in the new Parliament.
To this end, if elected, (in addition to promoting Wales and Britain’s interests generally within the European Parliament, something UKIP’s policy of voting against everything or abstaining, and of not bothering with Committee work, has spectacularly failed to deliver) my goal will be to do everything in my power to help deliver Brexit for the people of Wales and the United Kingdom. I will fight for this both in the sense of our departure from the EU and also in the sense of having an active focus on what should take its place and specifically on how we should engage with our neighbours on the continent post Brexit.
Having a strong Conservative delegation in Brussels will also be important because, in a context where leaving can only be given legal effect by the British Parliament, close co-operation between Brexit supporting MEPs and MPs will be vital. This, however, will be hampered and frustrated to the extent that Brexit supporting MEPs are from a party or parties that have no seats at Westminster.
In some ways, however, the most important consideration is that if the Conservative Party does not fair well in these elections, the chief beneficiary in terms of the political dynamics of Westminster – where Brexit needs to be authorised – will be Jeremy Corbyn. This is not the kind of risk we can afford to take.
For all these reasons, while I regret that it has been necessary to secure candidates, and hope that these elections will not be necessary, I am very pleased to be standing as the lead Conservative Party Candidate in Wales.