Steven Woolfe – Reaching Out: the referendum challenge

Posted on 26 January 2016

British Future’s recent publication ‘How (not) to talk about Europe‘ sets out the challenges faced by both the Leave and Remain campaigns to secure majority support in the EU referendum. In the run-up to the public vote, British Future will engage leading voices on all sides of the debate, asking them to set out the competing visions of the future which they believe can win the confidence and support of modern Britain. In this keynote speech Steven Woolfe, UKIP immigration spokesman, sets out his view of the positive vision with which the Leave campaign can reach new audiences to win the EU referendum.

Steven Woolfe speech.26.1Good morning ladies and gentlemen and thank you Sunder and Steve and British Future for inviting me to speak today.

For some of you, it may seem improbable that British Future, “an independent, non partisan, think tank” on immigration would invite the Migration spokesman   from UKIP, a party many hardly consider non-partisan, independent and balanced on immigration.

It is to Sunder’s great credit that he knows that despite my obvious imbalances   I also believe in British Future’s credo of “engaging peoples hopes and fears about integration and migration, opportunity and identity, so that we share a welcoming Britain inclusive and fair to all”.

I would also like to thank the commentators and journalists who are here today. With the EU battle very much underway and so many fronts opening up I am sure that you are here hoping that I will open up another.

Sadly there I will disappoint you. But I’ll remind you of what I said in my Margate speech last year when channel 4 ran the film 100 days of UKIP when they said as Immigration minister we would deport people. I said they were wrong in the first 100 days I would privatise Channel 4 appoint Michael Crick as our Chairman and Chris Hope Head of Diversity for visual output.

Today I come with a less radical but very simple message.

This European referendum is a once-in-a-generation chance for us to reclaim our independence.

And to win, we Eurosceptics must unite. We must persuade the British people that a British future outside of the European Union is a far rosier one than a future in it.

And to win, we MUST persuade all sections of our community, including the Black, Asian, Minority and ethnic of which I am a member, that their futures, the futures of their children are better served if Britain has more control over its own affairs as an independent nation state.

40 years ago, The last time the British people were offered their only democratic vote, on whether to be a part of the European Common Market or remain an independent nation trading with Europe, I can testify that Britain was a very different place for the BAME community.

I didn’t take part.

I couldn’t take part, I was only seven.

Instead there is a photograph of my younger brother and I taken around the time of the vote that shows more of the style of the times.

We both wore sharp coloured and psychedelic tank tops, brightly coloured shirts with huge collars and flared trousers. These were topped off my lightly tanned face and huge black afro, in contrast to my brother’s white face and pure blond afro.

Same Manchester born mixed race father, the son of an Black American and Jewish mother.

Same Manchester born white Mother, the daughter of a bold and bright County Kildare mother and stern English father.

Today this mix that is old hat, nothing unusual, pretty normal – and so it should be.

Back in 1975, being mixed race, or as we were then called “quarter caste”, a banned phrase today, living in a council house in Manchester’s Moss Side estate and going to a predominantly Irish catholic primary school I may not have been too aware of arguments over Britain’s future in Europe.

But I was very much becoming aware of what it was like to be young boy growing up in a deprived part of England. I was aware, through my grandfather’s solitude, his sacrifice in the war to make Britain free; I was aware I had a free education, hospitals to look after me and small but significant benefits offered by a generous nation to help us through hard times

And what’s most interesting about this, when put into the context of the BREXIT debate, is that the EU has had very little to do with this. Almost all the relevant legislative changes and, more importantly, the cultural changes, have come from Westminster, local authorities and our mixed communities. Compared to other important EU economies Britain is a standard for integration and assimilation of BME citizens. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re perfect but we stack up pretty well to, say, France for example in this respect.

Today in our nation’s capital, where 300 languages mix with hundreds of different communities BREXIT is a matter of keen interest. And across the country the BME community will likely turn out heavily to vote in the European Referendum.

In fact, in the upcoming BREXIT campaign the ethnic vote will not only play a crucial role in whether the UK Leaves or remains – I believe it will actually lead the Leave campaign to victory.

40 years ago the referendum was a straight battle between those who believed Britain’s economic future lay in a trading relationship with the EEC and those who did not believe in relinquishing hundreds of years of hard won democratic rights to a new European power.

40 years later those essential arguments remain, but as the EEC morphed into the political European Union the arguments are now about Britain’s place in the world and your future. The arguments are about our nation’s prosperity, our culture, our security but above all about our freedom.

It is these key values: Prosperity, Culture, Security and Freedom that Britain’s ethnic community, of which I am a member, will see as essential when making their choice. I believe they will join me in voting to Leave – and reclaim our nation’s independence.

Because for 40 years the European Union hasn’t been working for families of the Commonwealth who settled here, hasn’t been working for their British born children and hasn’t been working for their extended families.

For 40 years, as the EU has built its own nascent nation, preferring preferential treatment for EU citizens, members of the Commonwealth have all experienced the effects of the Brussels led indirect discrimination on them and No-EU citizens.

The European Union’s most precious core principle, freedom of movement, whilst a boon for citizens of poorer EU countries seeking work in wealthier nations, has become an albatross on the prospects of British born citizens and increasingly so for the ethnic community too.

They see the numbers of immigrants coming to this country at a rate the country has never had to face or absorb, far exceeding the numbers when they arrived.

333,000 last year alone, a city the size of Coventry. The influx is mostly of low skilled or semi skilled workers. They are young, they are a competition and they know it threatens their wages and their ability to retain their jobs. Whilst the ethnic community quite rightly welcomes immigration and sees its benefits as British Future identify.

Blacks and Asians share the same concerns as the white community about the scale of illegal immigration and mass migration. They remember what it was like when they first moved here; they are inured to the hardships of housing, of language, of isolation. They remember that life wasn’t always kind, the racism, the sly remarks, the sense of indifference or ignorance.

But they worked hard, driven on by the same desires to protect their families and give their children advantages they had lost or never had.

We have watched with pride as Black sportsmen and women have succeeded and become national heroes. I watched with my grandmother who adored Daley Thompson win gold at the Olympics, I tried to copy Paul Ince, the great Manchester United midfielder’s style of play – sometimes a little too aggressively – and I watched my brother Nathan almost create history for Bolton in a European cup tie and my friend Lammy have a chance of Olympic Bobsleigh Gold.

Sport stars have been supplemented by brilliant business people, lawyers, doctors, scientists, even BBC journalists like my school friend Henry Bonsu or young entrepreneurs like three special women from Moss Side who founded the Nubian times magazine and radio station.

Yet the fact remains that the vast majority of British ethnic communities, like their white counterparts, do not reach the 1% or 5% but live ordinary lives in low skilled or semi skilled jobs eking out existences in a more difficult world.

They know, as immigration continues at the pace it does, there will be more competition as taxi drivers for less work, pushing wages down, they know on the building sites more immigration means job displacement by younger men, or that part time work as a mother in catering is increasingly difficult as foreign workers take the jobs on a full time basis.

They know that in their communities, as more people come, housing becomes scarcer and rents rise, making it more difficult to live when they have families rather than single sharing rooms.

They feel the full force of lower wages, job displacement, increasing costs on scarce resources and they know that EU freedom of movement is THE major cause.

But in the same way Ethnic communities are harmed economically by the impact of EU freedom of movement they are harmed by the response of government to controlling immigration.

Unable to control EU migration, government has introduced more restrictions on Non-EU migration.

Every Pakistani community knows of the anguish and struggle to obtain a visa for a grandmother to visit for the grandchild’s wedding.

Every African community knows of a university educated nephew or niece struggling to get one of a limited number of highly skilled visas.

Everyone knows that these restrictions are caused by a government unable to control EU workers coming to the UK and so Commonwealth citizens must bear the brunt.

As British Future research has shown, the vast majority of ethnic voters are positive about the contribution of immigration but anxious about the scale. Indeed they are susceptible to positive and well-balanced arguments for managed migration, such as an Australian points based system.

Provided that the Leave campaign can be positive in our language on immigration, positive on the options after BREXIT to create equality of opportunity, those in ethnic communities caught by the pressure of mass migration can be won over.

The Brixton builder, St Pauls Plumber or Moss side mechanic will back Brexit.

As our television screens show terrorist attacks upon ordinary citizens in US shopping Malls, Parisian restaurants and London buses, people’s concerns about Security also rise.

“Fear is, I fear, the most effective tool in destroying the soul of an individual and a nation” Anwar Sadat once said

The fears of an Asian family terrified of losing a child in a terrorist bomb in the streets of London are the same as any other British family losing their child in Manchester.

The fears of a Black family terrified that their daughters could be molested in Cologne are the same as an British family in Rotherham or Rochdale.

It is disingenuous and dishonest to suggest that ethnic families are not as concerned about the impacts of international terrorism or home grown abuse, but we do have to be conscious that in our language many Muslim families do not believe we share their fears or their horrors.

To win this referendum, we in the Leave campaign must express our unity with communities that want to see a safe Britain, controlled Borders and increased security – and we must demonstrate that the EU cannot and has not provided that.

We must do this in a positive way, painting a picture of a migration policy outside of the EU that will be fair, compassionate but robust – promoting a positive, outward-looking British future free from the shackles of the European Superstate.

There is one compelling case that I believe the Ethnic community understand just as strongly as those who understand Britain’s struggle to reclaim our status as a sovereign, democratic nations

That is freedom.

Those from the Commonwealth, are a kith and kin, to Britain. 2.5 million Indians fought in the second world war and millions of Africans, West Indians, Canadians and Australians stood alongside each other to fight a European dictator bent on domination.

After the war those same nations and peoples fought valiant battles for their own nation’s independence and freedom.

Let us never forget that British Indians understand the struggle for freedom.

As Jawarharlal Nehru, Indian President said: “at the dawn of history India started on her unending quest and trackless centuries are filled with her striving”…

… “at the stroke of midnight when the world sleep India will awake to life and freedom

Let us not forget that British Africans understand the struggle for freedom.,

Julius Nyerere, President of Tanzania from its founding day, said:

“In Tanzania, it was more than one hundred tribal units which lost their freedom; it was one nation that regained it.”

Let us not forget that Black Britons understand the struggle for freedom and cherish our institutions that none other than Nelson Mandela praised:

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony”

“I regard the British parliament as the most democratic institution in the world”

Freedom, Liberty, supremacy of parliament, the fundamental desire to be in control of your own destiny. These are values ethnic communities treasure, for many they escaped nations where these fundamentals values no longer exist.

For those of us who believe that Brexit is better for the future of my community, the BME community, than remaining inside political union, we must face up to the fact that our arguments have been crowded out by the noise and anger of the debate and not embraced the vision of a freer future.

As Stephen Biko said “being free is and attitude of mind” but a mind is trapped if cannot express itself and freedom is all or nothing it cannot be parcelled up into smaller pieces as the EU does, controlling our laws, controlling our regulations, controlling our borders, controlling our future.

Freedom to negotiate trade deals with India or any other Commonwealth country on terms that help our own nation.

Freedom to provide security for our families by securing our borders and cooperate with nations across the globe on our terms.

Freedom to introduce an Australian points based system that allows equality of opportunity to all those seeking work from abroad whilst controlling the numbers to helps wages and jobs.

Freedom to introduce an immigration system that is fit for the 21st century, a system that reconciles our proud history of accepting immigration, of contributions in times of struggle from our Commonwealth cousins and of our friends in countries across the globe who wish to trade with us, study with us, work with us or simply express their love of our country.

I believe the United Kingdom will thrive leaving the the EU.

I believe the people of Britain will thrive leaving the EU

I believe that the Britons BAME community also understand that by voting to leave, they will thrive too.



  • Comment by Maureen Smith at 13:12 on 26.01.16

    An excellent speech Steven. I hope you were able to win over people from BME backgrounds, a lot of whom have been peddled lies about UKIP. I also watched Politics today. Your arguments were clear and very easy to understand the fairness. They would be because they are UKIP. I found the arguments from the two Labour people and Jo thingy completely lacking in sound logic, you certainly had your work cut out! You did well, I love hearing you speak. Don’t ever give up on us. We need all of you in UKIP.
    Maureen Smith