The UK Independence Party will remain at the forefront of bringing radical change to British politics, its leader has promised, even as the country prepares to leave the European Union.
For more than 20 years UKIP has built its policy platform around a central wish to see Britain exit the 28 member state block and uncouple from Brussels. But with Brexit plans now underway following a referendum on the matter last June, many have questioned what the party now stands for.
On Sunday its new leader, Paul Nuttall, attempted to answer that question, setting out the party’s stall in the Sunday Telegraph.
“Some people say our unique selling point was leaving the EU and that it has now gone. But our appeal is much wider than that,” he wrote.
“We are the party that tells it how it is – even when you are not meant to. That means challenging a cosy consensus whenever it is letting down the British people. And it means being ready to take flak from powerful interests that established the consensus in the first place.”
Nuttall said that that means building on the party’s past successes on immigration – bringing to the political forefront terms such as “wage compression” and “Australian style points system” – by continuing to bring new ideas to the table.
“I have already started to develop an even tougher approach to immigration that will assess potential immigrants not just on their aptitudes – what they can bring to our economy – but also their attitudes – what they will bring to our society,” Nuttall said.
“An attitudes test would reject any applicant found to think practices such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage or “honour” violence can be justified in any circumstances. Such people should not be welcome in our country.”
Under his leadership, UKIP will be calling for tougher measures against those who fail to integrate, including discouraging full face coverings and ending the translation of official documents into “dozens of languages”.
Although radical by British standards, the proposals fall short of the full ban on Islamic face veils already introduced in other countries including France, the Netherlands, Austria and even Morocco.
Nuttall also plans to make the foreign aid budget a key plank of UKIP’s policy platform, asking “Why should we send overseas £30 million a day, often to corrupt governments, when so much needs to be done in our country?”
And the party will lead calls for an English Parliament to redress what they consider a democratic deficit for England engendered by the Scottish and Welsh assemblies.
But Brexit will remain at the heart of the party’s raison d’être.
“[D]o not be too sure […] that Mrs May will deliver a full Brexit when it comes to the crunch,” Nuttall warned.
“There are already signs she is prepared to sell out our fishing communities and that is before she has even begun departure talks with Brussels. UKIP under me will be a Brexit guard dog, ensuring that if the Tories dare go soft they will get bitten on the backside by the electorate.”
A recent by-election at Stoke-on-Trent, which saw Nuttall go head to head against a pro-EU Labour candidate, proved to be a disappointment for the party. Despite more than 300 party activists flocking to the Midlands town Labour held on to the seat.
Nuttall admitted: “The Stoke-on-Trent by-election was always a gamble for me – coming before I’d had a chance to set out a full policy agenda and communicate it with vigour. But the massive potential upside of pulling off a sensational victory made it one worth taking.”
However, he sees brighter days ahead for the party, cautioning: “[D]on’t make the mistake of writing UKIP off, as so many have done before. In 2004, for example, Michael Howard dismissed us as “cranks and gadflies” after being shocked by our showing in the European elections. And David Cameron thought he had “shot the Ukip fox” on numerous occasions. Whatever happened to him?”