Richard North, 24/12/2016  

On this blog, we very rarely write about Ukip these days. After all, we are primarily concerned with Brexit and, since the referendum, very little of the party's activities have had anything to do with that pressing issue.

As to the new leader, his greatest contribution since being elected by the rump of a disintegrating party has been to appoint Gerard Batten – the Article 50 denier – as their lead Brexit spokesman. This is as sure a signal as anything that the leadership has descended into the land of the fayries.

Entirely predictably, therefore, we are seeing Nuttall - with the same mindless dedication to stupidity for which he deserves to become famous – set his face against continued membership of the Single Market, churning out the same-old, same-old mantras, with which we've become so wearily familiar.

But now this crass individual is calling in aid the pre-referendum situation, arguing that "almost every leading campaigner for or against Brexit" made it clear during the referendum that "a Leave vote would involve leaving the single market".

It is on that slender "authority" that Nuttall claims legitimacy for his party's current stance, bleating dismally about "something similar to the 'fax democracy'", with remainers "seeking to foist on us an exit in name only".

Setting aside our wonderment at how someone can live as long as this man and know so little, I need to record my growing dismay at the utter fatuity of this tiresome mantra. If it is given its head, it will have us locked into the EU, defeating the aims of the Brexiteers.

The point which eludes these anti-marketeers is that the one thing which will absolutely ensure a clean break from the EU is membership of Efta and continued participation in the EEA. Practically and legally it is impossible to retain EU and Efta membership.

Moreover, we have long argued the need for an interim solution, for which Efta/EEA is eminently suitable. If this option is rejected, the need for an interim or transitional arrangement remains just as powerful, and thus creates the greater danger, of which Nuttall and his supporters seem oblivious.

Without the Efta/EEA solution, Mrs May and her team will be looking for transitional arrangements which will, perforce, involve a succession treaty which keeps us actively involved in elements of the EU treaties. In effect, there is a danger that Nuttall's action will keep us within the Union and prevent a clean break – the exact opposite of what he wants.

The even greater danger is that a prolonged transitional agreement, which keeps us within the orbit of the EU, gives time for the "colleagues" to organise a new treaty which can offer the UK "associate status" which, as an idea, is not going away.

Andrew Duff, still pushing his theme, wants to convert Brexit into an EU-UK Association Agreement, the effect of which would be to put us in exactly the same position that we would have been, had we not won the referendum. Having to deal with this danger is one thing.  But having also to deal with the likes of Nuttall glorying in his own ignorance is intolerable. 

One can quite understand the "remainers" pre-referendum briefing against the Efta/EEA option, for precisely the reason that it presents such an attractive alternative to EU membership. But to have the self-appointed claque of "leavers" join in and support the "remainers" was the height of stupidity. For Nuttall now to demand that we should repeat this stupidity, and claim it as legitimising his actions, is the height of folly.

Thus, while Christmas is supposed to be a time of goodwill and cheer to all men (and women), in the case of the anti-marketeers, we are making a serious exception. These people are as dangerous as they are stupid. They would destroy their own dreams, and take ours with them.

Our huge problem though is their almost impenetrable stupidity, and their resistance to acquiring knowledge. Anyone supposedly in the "leave" camp who is still prattling on about "fax democracy" and actually believing this inane propaganda is beyond salvation.

Sadly, under the leadership of Nuttall, that makes the official Ukip (but not necessarily all its members) as great a threat as the most potent "remainer". Perversely, anyone pushing for continued single market participation is a potential ally.

Therein lies yet another danger. To the point of tedium, we have argued for Efta/EEA as an interim solution. We have always regarded it as the least-worst option, with the safeguard that, at any time, as an Efta member (if they will have us) we can walk away from the EEA with one year's notice. The danger is that, in the hands of the "remainers", this could become a permanent (or semi-permanent) solution.

What is lacking from their equation is a vision of an end game – something of which Ukip and most of the "leave" fraternity are equally bereft. But we are not going to win the wider argument without offering the nation a credible long-term alternative to the EU.

This, then, defines the battle lines for the coming year. The anti-marketeer's arguments have no legitimacy. We say no to Nuttall - he is doing the cause more harm than good. 

Right from the start, though, more than five years ago, we were arguing that we must furnish a positive object. That is what Nuttal's "leading campaigners" notably failed to do. It is something that still needs to be done. And even though we're in the run-up to Christmas, I get tired and angry in equal measure at having to expend so much precious energy in fighting what should be our own side. We should not have to be doing this.

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