The Brexit Party comfortably won the European Elections in May, setting off a huge political earthquake. They have dropped off the news agenda since the elevation of Boris Johnson to Prime Minister, but the Brexit Party surge in the polls shows no sign of being a flash in the pan. Their role could be significant in a looming General Election, and it is possible that the party could have MPs in the next parliament.
But who are the Brexit party, and how worried should we be? HOPE not hate researchers have analysed why the party is dangerous and divisive in this hub. This includes scapegoating immigrants, calling Muslims terrorists and links with the far-right.
The threat from this party is very real. Nigel Farage is dangerous, and has used racism and Islamophobia to stir up division. Following the Westminster attack Farage spoke of a “fifth column living inside these European countries” on Fox News. “If you open your door to uncontrolled immigration from Middle Eastern countries you are inviting in terrorism”, said Farage. Farage even contrived to spin the tragedy to condemn opposition to Trump’s proposed Muslim travel ban.
Who votes for the Brexit party?
Brexit Party supporters are overwhelmingly anti-immigrant, hostile towards Muslims in Britain, but do not like the hard-core narrative of ‘Tommy Robinson’ or Gerard Batten.
A large share of Brexit party supporters hold strong anti-Muslim views:
- 37% see Muslims extremely negatively, distinctly different from their view on all other religious groups
- 63% think that Islam is generally a threat to the British way of life. Just 14% think it is generally compatible
- When asked why, 44% said they saw Islam as a threat to the British way of life because Islam breeds intolerance for free speech and calls for violent actions against those who mock, criticise or depict the religion in ways they believe are offensive; 40% said so because they believe that Islam seeks to replace British law with Sharia law
- 79% think that Islam poses a serious threat to Western civilisation
- 63% believe that there are no go areas in Britain where sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter; only 12% disagree
- 48% say they would feel very uncomfortable if they passed a woman in the street wearing religious clothing that covers the face
At the same time, slightly more think discrimination is a serious problem for Muslims in Britain today (32%) as deny this (31%).
Brexit party racism
The Brexit Party, registered in February by UKIP’s former Economics spokesperson Catherine Blaiklock, has the dubious honour of being the new political vehicle of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Blaiklock’s party has attracted numerous ex-UKIP figures after a mass exit in December, ostensibly over the far-right and anti-Muslim focus of the party under current leader Gerard Batten, and the increasing influence of the extremist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (AKA ‘Tommy Robinson’).
However, Blaiklock has been forced to resign after HOPE not hate revealed that she has made numerous anti-Muslim statements on her now-removed Twitter account, including claiming that Islam is “incompatible with liberal democracy” and that “Islam = submission – mostly to raping men it seems”.
Ties to Infowars
Brexit Party figures have extensive links to InfoWars conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson, retweeting him hundreds of times, and links to American conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec.
Watson has a history of racism and Islamophobia. Media Matters have uncovered Watson’s 2017 claims that liberals are anti-science for rejecting the notion that African and Middle Eastern people are more aggressive because they have lower IQs, stating “You can’t deny that there are differences between races when it comes to IQ”. Among his numerous instances of Islamophobia is his 2015 claim that “there’s no such thing as moderate Islam. Islam is a violent, intolerant religion which, in its current form, has no place in liberal western democracies.” Watson has also posted images of golliwogs online.
Promoting the far-right online
Leading Brexit Party figures have retweeted far-right figures numerous times, including a neo-Nazi, conspiracy theorists and virulent misogynists. For example, MEPs Martin Daubney and Lance Forman have retweeted Mark Collett, a former British National Party (BNP) figure and neo-Nazi who has frequently collaborated with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. The post retweeted by Forman features a picture of protestors following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, reading “Funny how the people who insist candles & peace vigils are the answer to Islamic terrorism are now ready to riot over a tragic accident.”