Daniel Hannan has been a member of the European Parliament since 1999. He is a journalist, author and broadcaster. His most recent book is What Next: How to Get the Best from Brexit.
The last thing I wanted was another European election. I had been looking forward to retiring from politics following Brexit. But walking away with Brexit still in the balance would feel like desertion under fire. Here are eight reasons that I am standing again – and eight reasons that I am asking you to vote Conservative.
Deliver an orderly and open Brexit
We need a Brexit that is managed, grown-up and economically liberal. Vote Leave did not win the referendum by offering a British form of Trumpism. Its campaign was optimistic and outward-looking. We should not drop that vision now. Yes, being prepared for no deal is the best way to secure a good deal. But let’s at least aim to have close and cordial relations with our neighbours.
Don’t let Corbyn get his hands on it
The Brexit negotiations proper will be conducted by one of two possible prime ministers – Jeremy Corbyn or whoever takes over from Theresa May as Conservative leader. The European election won’t directly affect the negotiations, but it will have a massive bearing on who wins the next general election – an election likely to come sooner rather than later. Corbyn has managed to be simultaneously pro- and anti-Brexit. He resents the EU because of its rules on state aid and competition, but says a second referendum would be “a healing process”. Are we really going to let him take over the talks?
Brexit, for many Conservatives, was only ever a means to an end. The end is a freer, more prosperous and more global United Kingdom. We are in danger of getting so bogged down in the process that we lose sight of the purpose. To ensure that Brexit is successful, we need hard-headed, pro-enterprise Tories. A ComRes poll over the weekend showed that, by 47 to 18 per cent, people agreed with the proposition that “After Brexit, Britain should position itself as the lowest-tax, business-friendliest country in Europe”. Who now speaks for that position? The Brexit Party, in fairness, isn’t claiming to have any post-Brexit policies: it boasts of including candidates from the far Left to the hard Right, united only in support of leaving. But if we lose the idea of a deregulated and free-trading Britain, what was it all for?
A Conservative voice
Amid all the noise and posturing, someone has to get on with the unglamorous business of actually delivering Brexit. That is what battle-hardened Conservative MEPs will help do, working closely with a Conservative Government in Westminster.
Get this thing finished
The reason that Brexit hasn’t happened is not that the Tories have been secretly working against it. It’s that all the other parties (except the DUP) have been openly working against it. Before the 2017 election, there was no nonsense about backstops or staying in the customs union. The EU put those things on the table in response to a clear signal from MPs that they would not countenance a no-deal outcome. If we want to change that situation, we need to change the majority in Parliament. Again, whom would you rather have in charge when that happens – a new Tory Prime Minister or Corbyn?
This isn’t about Theresa May
A lot of ConservativeHome readers – a lot of voters in general – tell me that they would vote Conservative, but they don’t want to endorse Theresa May. But she has already announced her departure. The question is whether her successor will inherit an irrecoverable position. Don’t imagine that the Conservative Party could be pushed into single figures in a national poll and then bounce back to beat Labour a few months later.
Get it over the line
I understand that people want to “send a message”. But the message was sent on 23 June 2016, when more of us voted Leave than have ever voted for anything. The Conservatives got the message; what they didn’t get was the numbers. Since the 2017 election, Labour, the SNP and the Lib Dems have been blocking Brexit and hoping that people will blame the governing party. What a tragedy it would be if that tactic worked – in other words, if people abandoned the one party that can actually deliver Brexit at Westminster.
Keep the Conservatives viable
A month ago, when the polls had us at 16 per cent, I wrote on this site that that figure was badly over-estimating our support. As I write today, the latest poll has us on 10 per cent and falling. A big party doesn’t recover from a defeat on that level. We are looking, not just at a lengthy spell of Labour government, but at the extirpation, after 190 years, of Britain’s main Centre-Right party. That is what is now at stake.