Diane James has become the UK Independence Party’s new leader, succeeding the most outspoken architect of Brexit, Nigel Farage.
A leadership contest was triggered after Farage stood down from his role in July, days after Britain’s vote to leave the EU. “I now feel that I’ve done my bit; that we couldn’t possibly achieve more than we’ve done in that referendum,” Farage said at the time, adding that he wanted his “life back.”
Speaking at the party’s conference in Bournemouth, on England’s south coast, James made her dedication to a pure, unadulterated Brexit clear:
Yes to a UK free to make trade deals with whoever and whenever we want and yes to an immigration policy that allows entry regardless of origin to those with the skills and the expertise and the social values that this country wants.
She also pressed prime minister Theresa May to “get on with it” and invoke Article 50, which would trigger the process in which an EU member state has two years to discuss and agree on the terms of its exit from the bloc.
Since coming to office this summer, May has kept her cards close to her chest about how and when she’ll implement the country’s vote for Brexit. She is reluctant to invoke Article 50 until at least the start of 2017, saying that she wants to explore “the best possible deal for the UK in trade in goods and services.”
Indeed, the shape of that deal already looks quite different from the one that the “Leave” side envisaged and campaigned for. May has, for instance, ruled out clamping down on immigration from within the EU by extending a points-based system that currently applies to non-EU citizens. The extension of this system was one of the key promises of the Vote Leave campaign, and discontent over immigration was one of the major reasons a majority of Brits voted to leave the EU in June.
UKIP’s relevance has been called into question now that it has achieved what it set out to do as its main platform, and the party has been riven by factional disputes (paywall) since Farage quit. But James, up until now the party’s home affairs spokesperson, pledged to “uphold all the beliefs and values that this party stands for.”