Commentators and the odd Tory MP are proposing an electoral pact between the Conservatives and UKIP. That idea is crazy and dangerous. An arrangement with UKIP would destroy the Tories’ credibility as a party of government.
David Cameron has gone to some lengths to purge his party of elements once aptly described by Theresa May as the nasty party. An alliance with UKIP would resurrect that image. UKIP is a party of protest, largely confined to two issues: immigration and Europe. On both, its views are ignorant and unpleasant. The proper response of a modern Tory sensibility should be to revile those positions rather than replicate them.
The Conservatives are historically a pro-European party. By contrast, Nigel Farage, an affable lightweight, seriously proposes that Britain emulate the example of Norway – outside the EU but with access to the internal market as part of the European Economic Area.
Think about what that means. To gain access to the single market, Norway makes a big budgetary contribution (almost half a billion euros annually) with no rebate. It implements almost all EU regulations and laws (more than any EU member apart from tiny Malta) while having no say in forming them. Being outside the EU, Norway is subject to customs duties and anti-dumping duties (it’s had big anti-dumping duties imposed on its salmon exports, an important source of its trade), and it has to negotiate its own trade treaties at the WTO without the strength in numbers that EU members enjoy.
Even then, Norway is leniently treated by Brussels, on the reasonable expectation that one day Norwegian voters may come to accept that EU membership has big advantages. There would be no incentive for the EU to be accommodating to the UK if we abrogated our membership. UKIP policy is for a powerless, isolated and reactionary Britain.
One Conservative MP tweeted today a purported parallel with the rout of the Canadian Conservatives in 1993 when the Right was divided. In fact, the Canadian Tories lost disastrously because they were discredited. An alliance with UKIP would assuredly have the same effect for their counterparts here.