Today
Mon 24 June 2019
Subscribe

In his efforts to woo Labour voters, Nigel Farage has refused to publish a Brexit Party manifesto, and no wonder – it has a constitution totally at odds with democratic principles and of which Robert Mugabe would have been proud, says Paul Brennan.

Those seeking to support the Brexit Party can do just that by going to its website, registering as a supporter and paying £25.

Or they can volunteer or even apply to become a candidate. But, becoming a member? That’s not so easy. For the party’s website provides no clues as to how to become one.

As a limited liability company, the Brexit Party’s ‘articles of association’, the foundation of its constitution, are, or should be, filed with Companies House.

Becoming a member? That’s not so easy. For the party’s website provides no clues as to how to become one.

The version most recently filed, in February when Catherine Blaiklock was the sole shareholder, restricts the objects of the company to developing an organisation which will campaign for withdrawal from the EU, the negotiation of a trade deal with the EU and a programme of national revival by promoting a full range of long-term domestic policies at parliamentary and local elections.

Members admitted by the board of directors are each entitled to a vote at general meetings of the company.

At present, there are just two members of the board – Farage and the party’s chairman Richard Tice – with Phillip Basey as the company secretary.

Farage, but not Tice, is registered as a person with significant control, meaning that he has the ability to control the company and owns the majority of the shares.


Lipstick on a Pig?

A different version of the Brexit Party’s constitution was published by the Electoral Commission in March in response to a Freedom of Information request.  

According to this “constitution”, the Brexit Party exists as a limited liability company with registration number 11694874.

However, company registration number 11694874 is not, in fact, the Brexit Party Ltd, but Rafiq Cosmetics Ltd, a Sheffield cosmetics distributor. But, it is Farage – rather than Rafiq Cosmetic’s sole director Imtiaz Babar – who is registered as party leader.

The “Constitution” submitted to the Electoral Commission can be taken as being the manner in which it is intended that the Brexit Party will operate.

The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PERA) 2000, requires an application for registration of a political party to be accompanied by a copy of its constitution, meaning that the documents by which the structure and organisation of the party is determined.  

In the case of a party which is a limited liability company, those documents should include the articles of association.

The status of the constitution provided to the Electoral Commission is unclear.

Is it intended to supersede the articles of association? In which case, a copy should have been filed with Companies House. Or is it intended to complement them? In which case, a copy of the articles of association should also have been lodged with the Commission at the time of the application for registration, with any of the numerous contradictions between the two being resolved in favour of the articles of association in the superior document.

IF YOU LIKE THIS ARTICLE
HELP US PAY MORE GREAT JOURNALISTS AND WRITERS

Subscribe for the next six editions to your door for £11.40
• digital edition • Naked Newsroom podcast • monthly meetings

sign up at bylinetimes.com/subscribe/ or email info@bylinetimes.com

Whatever the answers to these questions, the “constitution” submitted to the Electoral Commission can be taken as being the manner in which it is intended that the Brexit Party will operate.

Two themes predominate.

The Thatcherite political objectives of the party, and the near total control over its policy and operations given by Nigel Farage.


Political Objectives

As you would expect, the objectives of the Party include leaving the EU.

According to the Brexit Party, after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, it should not make any treaty or join any international organisation “which involves in any way the surrender of any part of the UK’s sovereignty”. Laws which apply within the UK should be wholly made by the UK Parliament.

The party is also constitutionally opposed to the Irish backstop and believes that the “integrity” of the UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland should be maintained. Unrealistic perhaps, but hardly a surprise, and something that Brexiters on the left or right can get behind.

The commitment to policies which “ensure proper control over the UK’s borders” will also appeal to both sides of Brexit’s fan-base.

In contrast, the social and economic policies set out in the constitution could not be more alien to the preoccupations of traditional Labour voters, whose dissatisfaction with austerity has in no small part contributed to the Brexit vote.

Policies to “diminish the role of the state” and “lower the burden of taxation on individuals and businesses” are aimed squarely at the demolition of the welfare state and privatisation of the NHS.

It is no exaggeration to say that Farage has total control over the party, not only with regards to its policies, but also its internal organisation and management.

An exception is the commitment to policies which “promote and strengthen the rule of law” – an authoritarian counterweight to the espousal of policies which favour individual rights of self-determination and which “strengthen and guarantee the essential, traditional freedoms and liberties of all people in the UK”. Naturally, these traditional freedoms and liberties do not include rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, or, needless to say, the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights.   

Under its constitution, Farage, the party leader, is responsible for making and approving national statements of its policies (including the manifesto, if there ever was to be was one) and the way in which these policies are made. The leader is also responsible for giving political direction to the party and for the development of its policies for approval by the board.

It is the role and powers of the party leader that gives the lie to the constitution’s claim that the Brexit Party is a democratic organisation.


One Party, One Vision, One Leader

It is no exaggeration to say that Farage has total control over the party, not only with regards to its policies, but also its internal organisation and management.

He has the right to appoint the party’s board members, who serve two-year terms of office, which may be extended (or not), as he sees fit.

A motion of no confidence in the leader may only be passed if five board members vote in favour of it, although, at present, there is no evidence that more than two (Farage and Tice) have been appointed.  

A motion of no confidence in the leader passed by the board will only be effective if it is approved by a majority of members at a general meeting.

If the membership fails to endorse the vote of no confidence, or the leader is re-selected in the ensuing leadership election, the board and all party officials will be deemed to have resigned their positions, giving the leader free reign to install an administration more to his liking.

The constitution does say that, candidates for election to public office should be members, although it is not necessarily the case that they, in fact, are.

True, the leader is required to seek re-election by eligible members every four years. But, the rules for leadership elections are determined by the board, over which the leader has complete control, thanks to his right to appoint additional directors to secure himself a majority as and when required.  

The board is responsible for admission of members, but, as yet, there is no indication as to how membership may be attained. The party currently has no members.

The normal position in a company limited by shares is that a member is an individual or organisation which holds at least one share.

The constitution does say that, candidates for election to public office should be members, although it is not necessarily the case that they, in fact, are.

Beyond the right to participate in leadership elections every four years, members have no influence over the political orientation and operations of the party.

Motions at the annual party conference are advisory only. Besides, the chairman has sole responsibility for determining the motions for debate. Business motions passed by members at the associated annual business meeting (convened solely for the purposes of receiving reports from the party’s leaders and officers and receiving and noting the party’s accounts) are subject to ratification by the board. Extraordinary general meetings of members may only be convened if half of the party’s regional associations require such a meeting to be held.

As the party has no regional associations, there is no way for such members to require such meetings to take place.

In spite of what the constitution says, provisions of the Companies Act may give members some ability make their voices heard. Still, the Act will be of little benefit to them.

Changes to the constitution may only come into effect if approved by two-thirds of the membership in a postal ballot. Such a ballot may only be held if there is a two-thirds majority of the board, controlled by Farage, in favour of one.


The current policy objectives of the Brexit Party and the authoritarian complexion of its constitution are well and truly entrenched.  

It is a constitution totally at odds with the democratic principles which Farage professes to hold so dear to his heart and one which Robert Mugabe would have been proud of.

Labour voters tempted by the Brexit Party’s simplistic message of ‘taking back control’ would be well-advised to think carefully about whom they should give that control to and what is going to be done with it.

Paul Brennan is a solicitor specialising in commercial and regulatory aspects of the gas and electricity sector. He has played an active role in the public debate on the legalities of Brexit and related litigation, notably the Article 50 Challenge campaign.

More stories filed under Fact