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Brexit reflections from Suzanne Evans


Here is the latest in our series reflecting on the Brexit process with regular BrexitCentral authors and and others who have played an important role in our journey out of the European Union. Here are the answers to our questions from Suzanne Evans, who was a board member of Vote Leave.

BC: When did you first come to the view that the UK would be better off out of the EU? Did you ever think that the EU could be reformed from within to make membership tolerable for the UK? Tell us how your views developed over time on the issue.

I can’t recall a time when I’ve ever thought we’d be better off in the EU, although it wasn’t really until after the 2010 election, which David Cameron had gone into promising ‘reform’, and the restoration of democratic control, that I sat up and took a keener interest in EU issues, having just got actively involved in politics and been elected as a Conservative councillor. Cameron’s promises came to nothing in coalition with the pro-EU Lib Dems and not only did he fail to stand up to the EU, he committed to its further enlargement. Three years later, I joined UKIP and became the passionate Brexit campaigner you see today: being part of a political party that was all about the EU, examples of horrors emanating from Brussels dropped every hour of every day and getting out was a no-brainer.

BC: What was your most memorable moment during the referendum campaign?

It has to be actually winning. I was doing the media round on referendum night, and a few minutes before the result was announced, I was sat in the little BBC reception at the Millbank studios watching the results still coming in on a tiny TV high up on the wall. Suddenly, John Pienaar walked out of the newsroom and said: “Congratulations, you’ve won!” “Do you really think we have?,” I asked him, and he said: “Yes, there’s no coming back from this now.” A couple of minutes later, I’m still waiting and watching as David Dimbleby calls it for Leave, and my heart just starts pounding. I think: “I’m going on telly in a minute, to talk about the fact we’re leaving the EU! This is awesome!” I remember walking in through the newsroom with a huge smile on my face and, I have to say, noticing the BBC journalists mostly looked shocked and pretty pissed off!

BC: Who was the most unlikely ally you campaigned with or shared a platform with during the referendum? Did you strike up any unexpected new friendships across traditional political divides?

Unfortunately, for me the referendum wasn’t so much about finding new allies on the Leave side – that was easy – but trying to bat away the extensive bile and hatred I got from some of my former UKIP colleagues because I chose to support Vote Leave, rather than the Farage/Banks outfit. It was tough and wearing. And all so unnecessary. We were supposed to be on the same side for God’s sake!

BC: Where were you on referendum night? How did it feel?

I remember walking out of the Millbank studios and across College Green as dawn broke. Taxi drivers were hooting their horns and the odd van went past with a union flag being waved out of the window, and the occupants cheering, and it felt utterly exhilarating. More than that, it felt like we were finally free. That was my overwhelming sense that morning: freedom.

BC: Did you think then that it would take as long as it has for Brexit to actually happen?

No. At the outset I was cautiously optimistic, thinking we’d be gone two years after Article 50 was triggered, but as I’ve always maintained that Article 50 was a trap to keep us in rather than let us leave, I wasn’t too surprised that this, in essence, is what materialised during the process. However, the depths to which the ‘establishment’ tried to keep us in, pulling every trick in the book, was a horrific eye-opener. It was sickening, and very difficult to stay optimistic during the darkest of those times. How fragile is our democracy. We nearly lost it, didn’t we?

BC: Were there any moments in these last few years since the referendum when you thought the prize could yet be snatched from us?

I’ve been asked countless times since the vote whether I thought we would actually leave, and my answer was always ‘yes’, even in some of the darkest times following court cases and the appalling subterfuge of John Bercow and too many members of the House of Commons. My view was this blatant attempt to prevent Brexit would only make the resolve to Leave stronger. However, I’m not ashamed to admit to feeling physically sick with concern that Boris might not win the December 2019 General Election, and that my answer would have to become ‘no’.

BC: Do you think the British electoral landscape will return to type once Brexit has been delivered? Or will Brexit have caused a lasting change to the political map of Britain?

The General Election result proved Brexit has at least the short-term power to shake up the electoral map but, in the longer term, who knows? There are so many variables, not least how much of a success or otherwise the current Government can make of Brexit and whether the Tories can hold on to those traditional Labour voters they won at the election. My hope is that Brexit will bring a fresh wave of patriotism: for far too long the trend has been to rubbish our country, when actually we have a huge amount to offer and I think most voters know it.

If the new Labour leader continues to be negative about Britain, and about Brexit, and focus on simply bashing Boris and telling lies about the NHS, then their support will wane even further. I also think Lib Dem support will fall away when we have actually left the EU, as there will be little appetite for a party of rejoin, and unless it once again reneges on its principles, that is what the Liberal Democrat party will have to become. Where will those voters go? It is of course possible that in the Brexit fallout the Lib Dems and the Labour Party could fracture and perhaps even split, and new parties emerge, and then there will be much more momentum behind a change to elections based on proportional representation, which of course could very much change the electoral map. So no crystal ball on this one, but it will be interesting!

BC: What changes do you want/hope to see made now that the UK has taken back control? Can you summarise your vision for Brexit Britain?

Take Back Control. That was the winning slogan and that’s still what it’s all about, but not just about taking back control from the EU, and controlling our borders, our money and our sovereignty, but about taking back control of our democracy too. There is so much that needs to change: the way political parties operate; how government and Parliament operate; how at both a local and national level politics needs to become far, far more accountable to voters. Then there’s the Civil Service; the Judiciary (which will only loosen itself from the influence of the EU courts kicking and screaming); our oppressive nanny state; and the quangos that shore it up and invent so much rubbish while trampling all over free speech. We’re run by elitist cartels and, as we have seen, they fight very hard and very dirty to maintain their own best interests. If the new government can run with a reforming agenda to right these wrongs, it will be enormously popular. But are they up for it?

BC: Do you have any special plans for 1st February, our first day outside the EU?

Not yet, but I’m going to party hard the night before! And whatever I do, I suspect it will involve a bottle or two of the Winberry vineyard in Norfolk’s finest bubbles.

BC: Do you have a favourite photo of yourself from the Brexit process? If so, please share it and give us the context for it.

As above, from when I joined the Women for Britain team during the referendum campaign and, one fabulous day in May 2016, we leafleted the Royal Berkshire Polo Club. I love this pic of some of us posing alongside one of the awe-inspiring range of Aston Martins they had on display. We also enjoyed a Champagne reception and a delicious three-course lunch. The easiest and most luxurious day campaigning ever!

The post Brexit reflections from Suzanne Evans appeared first on BrexitCentral.

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