I CAN clearly remember why I left the Conservatives, in 1992. I had been a member for over 20 years, throughout much of a career which began with scrapping buses and ended up with businesses creating over 100,000 jobs.
I worked my way up from the bottom, with the party. Literally millions of us did, following Margaret Thatcher. So imagine how I felt leaving. But when John Major started fudging on the Maastricht Treaty, and the single currency, I told him I had to go. Since then this country has stumbled on with the EU disaster through the Blair and Cameron eras. Until now.
Brexit means everything to me. After I left the Conservatives, I spent millions on campaigns to end the influence of the unelected bureaucracy in Brussels over this great nation. In 2004 I met Nigel Farage and supported him in the European elections that year. Nigel was the master communicator we needed, a man of passion, drive and bravery. That year we won 12 seats. In 2014 we won 24 seats, beating Labour and the Conservatives into second and third place. The party became the first outsider to win a national election for 100 years.
Winning that election forced David Cameron to hold the EU referendum. But, in my mind, that referendum was the goal we wanted, that was what it was all about. And we have achieved it.
What we need to do now is to make sure the Conservatives, my old party, implement the result.
What does that mean? The simple fact is we have to get our borders completely under our control. So we must therefore leave the single market. Another reason to do so is that small businesses, which account for 99 per cent of private sector companies, and which employ 60 per cent of the private sector working population, are smothered by regulations from Brussels. These are the businesses generating new jobs – not the big banks and multi-nationals. And even though many have no trade with the EU they still have to comply with endless EU regulations
This, like so many of the powers acquired by unelected officials in Brussels, is astonishing. Frankly, it is shocking that it was the Conservative Party, which had the torch of freedom as its logo, yet gave up all these powers to an unelected bureaucracy, without a single vote from the people that they pretended to serve.
The Conservatives can now change all this, and I want to return to the party to help them. But to do so I, like so many who voted to Leave, need a clear commitment that these promises are going to be delivered.
One, we must take back full control of our borders and fishing rights.
Two, we must leave the single market.
As soon as it is guaranteed that these points will form the basis of our negotiations, we must trigger Article 50. Hopefully before Christmas. We must not hang about. We have to pick up where the people in the referendum left off, not kick the ball back into party politics. Once these issues are dealt with, I will return to the Conservatives and help them, financially if need be, to implement this programme.
Because one way or another, we will get this done. A nation without its own borders is not a nation. A nation which does not make its own laws is not a nation. A nation which cannot fish its waters as it wants to, is not a nation. A nation which has handed over its very passport is not a nation.
These things are vital. The man in the street wants to see these powers and there British Passport returned.
I’ve never met Theresa May, but she is starting to sound like a good prime minister and she will need to be. Her appointment of David Davis as Secretary of State for leaving the EU was a good decision, in my opinion.
Society has been terribly damaged. It may not seem that way in London but huge parts of the North and elsewhere are suffering by long waiting list for public services and wage compression.
Today the Conservatives have the best chance to rebuild the nation since Margaret Thatcher as the Labour opposition is in melt down.
I am a one nation Conservative. I come from the grass roots. I started with just £200. I didn’t go to Oxbridge, I went to a comprehensive school in Barnsley. I’m not an adviser from Goldman Sachs. But I have created nine different businesses over the last 50 years and not one has failed, so I reckon I’ve got reasonable judgment.
My judgment is that freedom and democracy are beyond value. The EU has got away with its power grab till now but they have to be stopped and we have to lead the way so that others may follow.
Tony Blair once said that I wanted to take the Conservatives to the edge of Europe. He was wrong. I wanted to take the Conservatives out of the EU. I turned to Nigel Farage, a great patriot and grafter. He knows I genuinely want to go back to the Conservatives. But he also knows that if it doesn’t work, I’ll be back. He knows that if we are betrayed, the people of Britain will be able see our campaign posters from the Moon, because I will never give up on this issue until the British people get what they voted for.
Paul Sykes is a Yorkshire entrepreneur and Ukip donor.