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Nigel Farage must be prepared to stand down his victorious Brexit army 

The Brexit Party Launches "The Big Vision" 
The Brexit Party is on a war footing, but with any luck will never have to fight again, writes Allister Heath

It will soon be obvious to all that Boris is the real thing and the main threat is from the Remainers

If you want peace, prepare for war, as Vegetius explained in Epitoma rei militaris, the only Roman military manual of its kind to have survived intact. Nigel Farage, unlike the Prime Minister, isn’t a classicist, but I hope he will be heeding the lesson.

The Brexit Party is on a war footing, but with any luck will never have to fight again. Farage knows he must keep up the pressure on a Tory party that has spent 50 years betraying Eurosceptics. He is selecting candidates for every seat, releasing non-Brexit manifesto pledges (such as cash for the North and ditching HS2) and is furiously reminding voters that the problems with Theresa May’s deal extend far further than the backstop.

It is easy to understand why Farage is acting in this way. He has confirmed his place as one of the heroes of the Brexit revolution, most recently as the man who rescued it from its near-death experience at the hands of May’s clique of third-rate, dishonest Remainer ultras. Without the Brexit Party and its 30.5 per cent of the vote at the European elections, the 1922 Committee would have been too cowardly to axe Mrs May, the European Research Group would have remained powerless and Boris Johnson and his brilliant count palatine Dominic Cummings wouldn’t be in No 10, frantically preparing for a no deal.

For now, Farage must keep up the pressure. Without the threat of a wipeout and, in extremis, the potential replacement of the Tories by the Brexit Party, some (currently dutiful) Remainer ministers could still turn against no deal and try to blow everything up before Oct 31.

Yet Farage mustn’t lose sight of the ultimate objective: a meaningful departure from the EU that ensures Britain’s voters and institutions regain control of our laws, money and trade. It should go without saying that a genuine Brexit is compatible with a proper agreement: it doesn’t have to mean no deal. Yes, at present it looks likely that the only acceptable way out will in fact be without an agreement, but there is still a chance that this might change. Boris’s meeting with Angela Merkel was surprisingly hopeful.

But whether Europe’s nomenklatura climbs down or not, at some point soon, perhaps in a few weeks’ time, even the most cynical will have to concede that Boris is planning to deliver the clean Brexit he has promised. It will be obvious – for those to whom it isn’t already – that the existential threat comes from Remainers, not No 10. It will then make sense for Farage to declare victory, put aside his distrust of Mr Cummings and ensure his candidates never make it to actual ballot papers.

To those Brexiteers who disagree, I ask this: look at the facts. I still can not believe just how pro-Brexit this government actually is. It is breathtaking. Johnson/Cummings are the real thing, as are Dominic Raab, Priti Patel and all the other Brexiteers in positions of power. Sajid Javid is preparing a Budget that will blow the socks off the economy and will be the most important since Nigel Lawson’s 1986 masterpiece. The no-deal preparations are substantial and sincere.

Johnson’s letter to Donald Tusk contained two central points. The first is that the PM rejects the backstop, the most pathetic, preposterous treaty clause any British government has ever proposed signing.

The second, equally powerful, has been overlooked. We will not merely be leaving the single market and customs union but will be setting our own laws and taxes. It’s worth quoting Johnson at length: “Although we will remain committed to world-class environment, product and labour standards, the laws and regulations to deliver them will potentially diverge from those of the EU. That is the point of our exit and our ability to enable this is central to our future democracy.”

There will be no permanent regulatory alignment and no signing up to the EU’s horrifically anti-competitive “level playing field” guarantees. We will not have to copy and paste, zombie like, any new or existing rules dreamt up in Brussels. We will have the opportunity to innovate and to compete with better – or reduced – regulations.

Trade agreements necessitate some broad alignment in certain areas to allow mutual recognition of standards, but that is radically different from the wholesale surrender of sovereignty Mrs May was proposing. Under any possible Boris treaty, we will be self-governing once again. His pre- or post-Brexit negotiating aim is a classic free-trade area, not non-voting membership of a single regulatory zone. The implication is that the rest of Mrs May’s deal is dead: Boris’s letter is incompatible with the political declaration. His end point is exactly what Brexiteers have been dreaming about for so long.

When the time is right, Farage should stand his party down, especially if a general election has to take place before we leave. At the heart of the Boris/Cummings plan is a simple calculation: they must win swaths of Labour-held seats in working-class areas, to compensate for a small number of losses to Lib Dems in ultra-Remainer areas. Splitting the pro-Brexit vote would be hopelessly counterproductive.

Pro-Remain Tory MPs who vote against Boris in a motion of no confidence or help Parliament seize control will either retire, join the Lib Dems or be deselected (by CCHQ, if need be). The party’s candidates will thus comprise only Brexiteers, including converts, as well as those such as Amber Rudd who have reconciled themselves to leaving. There will be no need for Farage to stand against any of them.

It is therefore absurd in the extreme to depict Johnson as Theresa May 2.0, as some deluded commentators have begun to. Such an “analysis” is entirely devoid of understanding. Its authors are so convinced that the only possible outcome is either the May deal – now or at a later stage when we supposedly come crawling back, begging for readmission to the single market or customs union – or no Brexit at all that they have become trapped in a logical fallacy.

They can no longer see the world as it is. Boris is preparing a real Brexit. Only a Remainer parliamentary putsch, or a dangerously divided Brexit movement, can still stop him.

  • Read Allister Heath's latest column on telegraph.co.uk every Wednesday night from 9.30pm