Resignation as UKIP General Secretary and Constitutional Affairs spokesman

I have been a member of UKIP since 2001. I have never been a member of any other political party, and there is no other major Party in the UK which even comes close to representing my views. I have remained with UKIP through the good times and the bad, when the Party was polling less than 1% in 2007.

What I say today I do not say lightly. Out of loyalty to Paul Nuttall, who is a personal friend who has done an incredibly tough job in the most difficult of circumstances, and out of loyalty to the many hard-working UKIP candidates up and down the country, I remained silent during a General Election campaign with which I profoundly disagreed. I can no longer remain silent now. Paul has been badly let down by many people, including some of his most senior advisers.

I am saddened by his resignation but understand and respect his reasons for it. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his service to the Party and wish him the very best in his future, whatever that might hold for him.

I fundamentally believe in what UKIP should be. A radical Party of low taxation, of direct democracy, of putting victims before criminals, of standing up and speaking up for the people who have been forgotten, abandoned, betrayed by the establishment. But this Party has lost its way in recent times. I did not stand at this General Election. There were many factors in that decision, but in the end there was one fundamental inescapable conclusion. I simply could not in all conscience support and propagate the policies that were being articulated.

The UKIP Manifesto was shown to the NEC at the very last minute, who had barely an hour to consider it and were therefore bounced into voting to approve a document that simply wasn’t good enough. They were presented with a bland fait accompli. This was not the fault of Paul Nuttall, the Party Leader, who was forced into the ITV election debate without ever having seen it. And often the policy spokesmen’s views were ignored. The UKIP Manifesto failed to be radical on economic issues. It watered down No Tax on Minimum Wage, it failed to truly show the advantages of Brexit and what we can achieve. We could have talked about replacing VAT with a fairer system. We have failed to be innovative and talk properly tough on crime. We have offered very, very little to hard-working families. We have said nothing of any substance for parents of primary school children, when education is the number one issue for them. We’ve watered down UKIP’s flagship Direct Democracy policy allowing the public to call referendums on key issues. If UKIP is not the radical, reasonable, reasoned alternative to the establishment then it is nothing. Huge pressure was put on Paul Nuttall to move the Party in a different direction.

The Party has taken a hardline position on terrorism. Do not mistake my words: the UK should be tough, incredibly tough, on terrorists. But as a Party we have fundamentally failed to make the distinction between the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims, honest and good people, including those I am proud to call my friends, and the unutterable evil of the perversions of ISIS. Tough and robust policies to tackle extremism are absolutely right. The victimisation or demonisation of Muslims and Islam is not.

I do not personally support a complete burkha ban (it’s different in situations where there’s a security risk, just like I don’t like football hooligans wearing balaclavas outside a stadium to avoid being filmed by police). The policy of genital inspections of schoolgirls was crass and ill-conceived at best. FGM is an issue which is fundamentally about child sexual abuse, but UKIP’s clumsy blundering approach detracted from an important issue of child protection. Despite FGM being a cultural practice, UKIP allowed it to be seen and misrepresented as relating to Muslims specifically. Instead of talking about vital issues, of keeping our children safe, UKIP found itself defending accusations of bigotry. When I was General Secretary before, the Party was ruthless in kicking out those who expressed vile racist views. Whatever the media said, we did not tolerate it and those people rightly were shown the exit door. The role of General Secretary does not come with executive power, and I have been powerless to do anything about the most extreme of comments.

I don’t agree with hardline anti-Islam messages. Yet in the wake of the London and Manchester attacks, it was a ‘perfect storm’ for those who espoused such views. If it was ever going to win votes at the ballot box, it was on Thursday. It failed. It did not work and it can not work. I’ve expressed my views in private to the Party leadership and others over many months, to no avail. I must now say something in public. I will try to avoid naming individuals, but promote positive alternatives and policies for the Party.

The people pushing such an agenda need to reflect on the Party’s future. They need to stop making it difficult – impossible, even – for many people to vote UKIP. They need to understand that Theresa May has imperilled Brexit and that their actions are utterly corrosive not just to the Party’s cause but also to the cause of regaining our freedom from the European Union.
UKIP is now in a last-chance saloon, but it is needed more than ever. This election result is the last wake-up call that they will ever get.

It would be improper for the General Secretary of the Party to be as blunt as I need to be, or even to say what I have said in this statement. My position is therefore untenable and I must therefore resign as General Secretary and Constitutional Affairs spokesman. I have agreed with the Party that this will not take effect until after the emergency NEC meeting on Monday.

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The EU’s House of European History is a wildly extravagant vanity project

The EU’s House of European History, which is to open its doors on Saturday (May 6) has been criticised by MEP Jonathan Arnott.

“This wildly extravagant vanity project – which has cost at least £44 million of taxpayers’ cash after costs spiralled out of control – is devoted to explaining the history of European integration.

“In one way, I suppose the House of European History is a great metaphor for the EU itself: the public never asked for it, it’s cost far more than we were originally told, the money is being spent on self-serving propaganda, and British citizens are expected to pay for it even though it’s based in Brussels and does nothing for the UK,”  said Mr Arnott, UKIP Euro-MP for the North East.

The museum in Brussels’ Leopold Park will take visitors along a timeline of major historical events across the continent starting in the 19th century, through to the two world wars (which Brussels has previously misleadingly described as ‘European civil wars’) and a discussion of their relationship to the founding of the EU.

“The exhibition ends with a discussion of the EU’s future – well the writing is on the wall for it. It has no long term future as it has always been a flawed project which is institutionally incapable of reform.” said Mr Arnott.

Statement on Article 50

I am hugely encouraged that, 9 months and 6 days after the British people spoke loud and clear in the EU referendum, Theresa May has today finally triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and we now begin the formal process of withdrawal from the European Union. This move has the overwhelming support of the British people: in a recent YouGov poll, just 21% said that the referendum result should be ignored or overturned.

I call on Theresa May and the British government to now deliver a deal which will secure the future of the United Kingdom as a vibrant, independent, global trading nation. We must regain our own sovereignty, stop payments to the EU budget, regain the power to fully control our immigration system, and most importantly of all regain the right to make trade deals in our own right once more.
Our destiny will be in our own hands once more. Never again will politicians be able to hide behind our EU membership and tell us that they lack the power to deliver for the British people. Here in the North East we are a trading region. We want the right deal with the European Union, one which enables us to trade with them freely and without tariffs. But we also want to open up new markets, new trade opportunities by developing our trading links across the world. Napoleon once called us a ‘nation of shopkeepers’; today we declare that we are once again open for business.
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Jobs and proper job security needed

The latest unemployment figures for the North East demonstrate that all the government talk about the Northern Powerhouse is just hype, says regional MEP Jonathan Arnott.

“While the figures of the ONS show that nationally unemployment is down, in this region the figures are actually up on the last quarter.

“The previous quarter had shown a decrease in those out of work but the rate was still the highest in the UK.

“I have no doubt that leaving the EU will provide the manufacturing boost that the area needs and since the Brexit vote I have been aware of a real sense of hope among our working class communities. And as we get nearer to leaving the EU the more I believe that will increase.

“I sincerely hope that the next ONS figures for the North East show a noticeable decrease and that the current ones are a blip.  I am fortified in that belief as the figures are down year-on-year from 102,000,” said Mr Arnott.

“What does worry me is that the North East has now been described by the TUC as the UK capital of insecure work, with the equivalent of two-thirds of jobs created in the region in the last five years being without guaranteed pay or normal employment rights.

“People not only need jobs but they need proper job security and legal safeguards,” he added.

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Anger over EU private army costs

A £230 million bill for UK taxpayers including helping fund a ‘private army’ to protect EU MPs has been slammed by MEP Jonathan Arnott.

Estimates have shown the European Parliament’s budget is rising to £1.7 billion – an above inflation increase of 3.3 per cent.

This includes funding of a private army, known as “Unit Protection” to protect MEPs and despite voting to leave the EU British taxpayers will have to contribute £230 million towards the Parliament’s costs.

Mr Arnott, a member of the parliament’s budget committee, said: “The European parliament’s costs continue to spiral out of control, now including a private army.”

“Easy ways to cut costs have been ignored year in, year out, and here we go again with a rise in the budget.

“It also means that the UK will have to pay more than £3.8 million towards a £28.5 million pro-EU publicity campaign for the 2019 European elections. That is particularly galling as Britain will not even be taking part.

“The parliament’s Secretary-General Klaus Welle has even admitted that they want this spending spree before Brexit happens and puts a strain on their finances.

“They love playing fast and loose with other people’s money and should reassure any doubters that our decision to leave was 100% the right one,” said Mr Arnott.

“This is yet another reminder that there is no situation to which ‘more money’ or ‘more Europe’ is not the European Union’s default position. “

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Statement on the Brexit Bill defeat in the House of Lords

The House of Lords has passed an amendment to the Brexit Bill, Amendment 9B, which states that the government must bring forward proposals to ensure that citizens of other EU and EEA countries and their family members who are legally resident in the UK must be allowed to remain in the UK and continue to be treated in the same way in respect of their EU-derived rights post-Brexit. The amendment was passed by 358 votes to 256, a majority of 102.

The idea that we shouldn’t kick out EU nationals currently in the UK is a good enough one, but for three reasons I have a huge problem with this amendment:

1. It is remarkably short-sighted. We need a reciprocal agreement between the EU and the UK: “We will allow EU nationals to remain in the UK post-Brexit, and in return UK nationals will be allowed to remain in the EU nations post-Brexit.” It’s much harder to gain such a reciprocal agreement on behalf of British ex-pats currently living in other EU nations if we’ve conceded their half of the negotiation position first. Yes, we do care about EU citizens living in the UK – but we also care about British citizens living abroad, and this Amendment damages our ability to help them.

2. There is one point where we would not wish to continue offering identical rights to EU citizens post-Brexit. The vast majority of those who come here are law-abiding citizens, but a small minority are not. Those who abuse our hospitality by committing serious criminal offences should not continue to have immunity from deportation. The current standard, which effectively requires us to show that an EU national poses a specific tangible threat to the United Kingdom, has been proven to be insufficient.

3. I do not believe that the House of Lords should be amending this Bill in particular. I recognise the Lords amend many Bills placed before Parliament in their role as a revising and scrutinising chamber. There is a question as to whether the unelected Lords have become an anachronism in the 21st century, neither one thing nor the other, since it was stuffed with political appointees. I would prefer a democratically-elected second chamber, but that is a discussion for another time. This time, though, the Bill is a response to an Act of Parliament which provided for a referendum on the European Union, and to implement the decision of the British people in that referendum. It is not for the Lords to add pre-conditions to those negotiations or to tie the hands of the British government to make their job harder.