- Theresa May’s Conservative Party are heading for a heavy defeat in the upcoming European Parliament elections, according to recent polls.
- The elections are being led by the newly-formed Brexit party, created by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage.
- The party’s lead candidate in London is Ben Habib, a property fund manager and former Conservative donor.
- He tells Business Insider that Brexit Party will lead to the “demise” of his former party.
- Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.
LONDON – Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party will give the Conservative Party a “really good kicking” in the upcoming European Parliament elections, one of its lead candidates has told Business Insider.
Ben Habib is a property fund manager and a former major donor to the Conservatives, who is now the Brexit Party’s top candidate for the London region.
He told Business Insider that Theresa May’s “unconditional surrender” to Brussels in Brexit negotiations is leading to “the demise” of the Conservative party of which he used to be a member.
“It’s sad to watch the demise of the Conservative party,” he said.
“They have chosen the wrong leader at a crucial time for the country.
“Unless the party gets itself together, it deserves to get a really good kicking.”
The Brexit Party is only a few weeks old but is currently on course to win the European elections at the end of May, according to most opinion polls, and could even finish in second place in Remain-voting London.
The prime minister’s leadership was plunged into an even deeper crisis last week when the Conservatives lost over 1,300 seats in local elections across England and Northern Ireland – the party’s worst result in over twenty years.
The Tories could suffer even worse results when Brits vote to elect Members of European Parliament later this month, with the Brexit Party set to hoover up swathes of Tory supporters who are angry with May’s failure to deliver Brexit.
Habib told Business Insider that he quickly became “fed up” with his former party’s refusal to pursue no-deal.
“I went to a number of lunches over the course of last year with Cabinet ministers,” he said.
“And to every Cabinet minister I put it that to get a good Brexit deal, you have to be genuinely prepared for no-deal.
“I don’t just mean having the motorways ready for lorries to run up and down them. I mean having a positive vision for post-Brexit Britain and spending money on getting the country ready… the point was completely lost.”
He said that if he had been prime minister, he wouldn’t have triggered Article 50 until the United Kingdom was completely prepared for leaving the EU without a deal. Then, “with the strength of that position, offer the EU something close to zero tariffs on trade with complete fluidity for our services sector, and see how they react.”
He dismissed warnings of the potential negative impact of no-deal as “fear-mongering” by a “bunch of very large companies with vested interests right across Europe,” singling out the Confederation of British Industry (CBI.)
“I just do not buy, looking at very basic stats, the fear-mongering from people like the CBI… They speak with this vested interest in mind. The most obvious one being access to very cost-effective labour to sustain their operations.”
Despite being an advocate for no-deal, Habib insisted that he was not on a “right-hand fringe of politics.”
“What is really good about the Brexit Party – and indeed it was something I was very keen to clarify before throwing my hat in the ring – is that it’s a very broad church,” he told Business Insider.
“This is not about whether you’re from the right or from the left. Brexit is not the preserve of the right-wing. It is something that is believed in by at least five million Labour voters. What we stand for is giving effect to democracy.”
He said that he could not have joined the UK Independence Party, the other vehement pro-Brexit party standing in the European elections, as it “has moved a long way right of centre” and “become a voicebox for concerns about Islam.”
“I’m half-Pakistani by origin. I have lived in Britain since 1979 and have utter allegiance and patriotism to this country. But I am half-Pakistani, my father lives in Pakistan and I have lots of Pakistani friends,” he told Business Insider.
“Rightly or wrongly, it [UKIP] is seen as a xenophobic, perhaps racist, Islamophobic party on the right-hand fringe of politics, and I couldn’t join a party with that sort of reputation.
“They have hired Tommy Robinson to advise them and that pushes UKIP to a part of the political spectrum in which I simply do not belong and do not subscribe.”
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