High on Brexit vote, UKIP elects new leader

Former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage (right) reacts as he poses with newly elected leader Paul Nuttall following the leadership announcement in London on November 28, 2016. The anti-EU party elected former history lecturer Nuttall as its new leader to take over from Farage, a political ally of US president-elect Donald Trump. (AFP)

Claiming credit for holding and influencing the June 23 EU referendum, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) on Monday elected Paul Nuttall as its leader after Nigel Farage stepped down and the party held a second leadership election this year.

Nuttall, 39, is a member of the European Parliament. He defeated former deputy chairwoman Suzanne Evans and former soldier John Rees-Evans. The second election was triggered after the previous winner, Diane James, quit after 18 days in the position.

Nuttall insisted the UKIP will fight attempts to water down the Brexit vote after former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair, among others, last week favoured holding a second referendum on the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Speaking before the election announcement, Farage claimed he and the UKIP were “much of the inspiration” for US voters electing Donald Trump as their next president. He also claimed inspiration for the growing popularity of anti-establishment parties in European countries.

Nuttall said his acceptance speech: “The country needs a strong UKIP more than ever before. For if UKIP is to be an electoral force, there will be an impetus on Theresa May and her government to give us a real Brexit.”

As Brexit dominated UKIP’s election announcement, the think tank British Influence announced it would launch a legal challenge on the issue of Britain remaining inside the European Economic Area (EEA) after it leaves the European Union.

Continued access to the European market is key to Britain’s economy and to the Brexit negotiation process, but comes with the obligation to accept the politically sensitive issue of freedom of movement.

British Influence lawyers argue that leaving the EEA would not be automatic and would happen only if Britain formally withdraws by triggering Article 127 of the EEA agreement. The question is whether Britain is a member of the EEA in its own right or because it is a member of the EU.

A government spokesman said: “As the UK is party to the EEA Agreement only in its capacity as an EU member state, once we leave the European Union we will automatically cease to be a member of the EEA.

“The referendum result will be respected and we intend to invoke Article 50 (of the Lisbon Treaty) no later than the end of March next year.”

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to leave the EU will be triggered by the end of 2017. The Supreme Court is due to hear a legal challenge on whether the government can trigger the article without approval from Parliament.


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