Yorkshire and the Humber Brexit MEP Lucy Harris: Nigel Farage has the common touch and must be part of talks with Brussels

Yorkshire and the Humber Brexit MEP Lucy Harris
Yorkshire and the Humber Brexit MEP Lucy Harris
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Lucy Harris is not your typical Brexit MEP. A softly-spoken 28-year-old who grew up in Sussex via Italy, she went onto to study classical singing at the University of London before beginning a career in publishing.

The stereotype created by Nigel Farage of the beer-drinking middle-aged Brexiteer, she certainly is not.

Her route into politics is also atypical. Finding herself at 25 at odds with her peers and her then-boyfriend in the wake of the divisive 2016 Brexit vote, she sought the company of like-minded people by setting up what was essentially a support group for Brexiteers in the Capital.

“Back in September 2016 I always knew I was going to vote Leave,” she says.

“It was always something I wanted to do. At the time – I’m 28 now – I was 25 and all my friends were going to vote Remain and there was a lot of pressure on me to vote Remain.

“There was a situation with my boyfriend at the time – he was an Italian Remainer and he kept piling on the pressure to vote Remain. And I thought this was my vote and I should be able to vote how I like…

As the referendum result emerged, she says those who disagreed with her began to view her “as someone who had done something very wrong and for me casting a vote shouldn’t be a moral thing.

“I set up a group called Leavers of London basically trying to find other people that were going through a similar experience of voting for something that they did with an open heart, they did with good intentions and then having it thrown back in your face in this way.

“So, I made this group – we started off with 10 people, we have now got 2,300 in the London group.

“And it expanded nationwide to different groups around the country meeting up and having a pint. They don’t necessarily talk about Brexit, it’s just being able to if you want to being able to talk about Brexit without automatically having to deal with a tirade of abuse and aggression.”

Her approach caught the attention of the newly formed Brexit party and she was selected to run for them as an MEP for Yorkshire and Humber during May’s European elections.

The poll saw Nigel Farage’s party triumph, taking over 30 per cent of the vote and pushing the Conservatives into fifth place.

The result secured Ms Harris a seat in Brussels alongside 28 other Brexiteers.

And the group was quick to make their mark as the European Parliament reconvened, by turning their backs as ‘Ode to Joy’ was played in the Strasbourg chamber.

The move sparked criticism, but Ms Harris believes it was a justified form of protest, although she was unable to attend the ceremony herself for personal reasons.

She explains: “I stand by my party doing that. I think of all the forms of protest you can do I think turning your back is pretty minor. I think it was dignified. How many forms of protest can you do in a chamber without being genuinely disrespectful to the music? Screaming and shouting would have been disrespectful...

“Personally I haven’t had much backlash at all. I don’t think that is the main issue and I think that the people who voted us in knew that we were going to go to cause a protest. They knew that we were going there to keep their voices going about being anti-Brexit. So it’s perfectly reasonable I think.”

The protest was certainly a reminder to Westminster’s politicians of the power of Mr Farage and his supporters and the influence they continue to have on the domestic Brexit debate.

And Ms Harris suggests that the pressure will ramp up for the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, as he attempts to succeed where Theresa May failed and deliver the 2016 referendum result.

“We are going through a period where the cult of character is coming in and people want strong leadership with decisive actions, plans and policy.

“Boris Johnson has been on the cards for a long time. It’s almost like he’s the prodigal son of Brexit and people want to see him do well. I want to believe he is going to deliver on the 31 October.

“But if there is any inkling that we are still attached to any institution of the EU then I think we are still there to keep the pressure up to leave those institutions.”

As for Mr Farage’s role over the coming months, Ms Harris makes the case for the Brexit party leader to be part of negotiations with Brussels.

“I think it’s useful for him to be involved,” she says.

“He knows the country a lot better than the politicians down in Westminster.

“He has got that common touch that a lot of people in Westminster lack...

“Also the way the European Union acts - nobody knows better than Nigel Farage how it works or what stunts they might try.”

Asked whether she expects her party to form an alliance with the Conservatives if there is a General Election before Brexit is secured, she replies: “I think Nigel isn’t the biggest fan of the Tory party. It’s food for thought.

“For Brexit it would probably be a good idea. But we also have to make very clear to the Tory party – if you are thinking of missing that 31 October deadline, the game’s up. Your last shred of trust has been obliterated. It has gone.”