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Dragon Interview: Former Ukip Candidate Who Has ‘Seen the Light’

Published on: 5 Jun, 2016
Updated on: 5 Jun, 2016

As the EU referendum approaches the Guildford Dragon continues to receive opinion from both sides of the debate. Here is an interview with Phil Robinson a former Ukip candidate who is now a convinced “Remainer”…

Phil Former Ukip Remain

Phil Robinson a former Ukip candidate now campaigning to “Remain”.

What is your background and your connection with Guildford?

I was born in Oxshott, grew up in Cobham and completed my schooling at Guildford County College of Technology, as I believe Guildford College was then named. More pertinently, I have always regarded Guildford as my local town, and love its topography and the beauty of its surrounding countryside. I have made regular use of its facilities whilst living in the area. It is a town I feel most comfortable in, and always enjoy my visits.

Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 22.44.49Tell me about the time you were a UKIP candidate?

I’ve always been interested in politics, and back in the mid 1990’s, following the ERM debacle and my developing interest and knowledge in the machinery and workings of the European Union, I thought that Britain’s best interest would be served, closely allied to Europe but outside of the Union. I therefore joined Ukip and put myself up for candidacy of the Eastleigh constituency parliamentary seat at the 1997 General Election.

Following the party’s disappointing performance at that election, and the in-fighting that broke out, largely as a result of the party having to become much more than simply a single issue pressure group, I felt that I was not fully committed to the direction in which the party was being led and decided not to continue my direct involvement.

Eastleigh general election result 1997 (source Wikipedia)

Eastleigh general election result 1997 (source Wikipedia)

What has been your recent working experience in Europe?

I have now lived and worked in three European countries other than England, namely Greece, Spain and Finland. Over the last three years, I have been working for a home improvement company based in Finland. My most prolonged stay however, was in Mallorca, where I was based for 12 years working in the yachting industry.

Phil Robinson Ukip Candidate in Eastleigh 1997

Phil Robinson Ukip Candidate in Eastleigh 1997

What has caused you to change your mind on Europe?

The experience of benefiting from working and living in other countries of Europe made me realise that the cultural and societal similarities were much greater than the often perceived and discussed differences; usually the only real impediment to comfortable integration is lack of being able to communicate easily in the language of the host country.

Moreover, I became aware, essentially, of the shared aspirations of the people of Europe and I saw the benefits of the pooling of sovereignty in the creation of a strong union. This belief in the benefits of the European Union has only strengthened in light of the huge geo-political, economical, financial and demographical changes that we are witnessing in the world today.

Compared to most other areas of the world, Europe remains a beacon of liberal democracy and enlightenment, and the Union plays a major part in maintaining the resultant freedoms that its people now take for granted.

What part are you playing in the current referendum campaign?

I have joined the Guildford branch of the Remain Campaign, and have committed myself to helping the cause through branch activities such as street campaigning, leafleting and attending associated meetings and debates. I have also made use of ‘phone-in’ radio programmes like LBC to help spread the message.

In your view, what are the pros and cons of EU membership and why do the pros outweigh the cons?

I really can see very few cons of EU membership. Of course there are concerns, such as the apparent lack of democratic accountability and dilution of sovereignty, but when one considers the vision and scope of the union, comprising now of 28 nations and over 500 million people, is it really surprising that in attempting to balance the obligations, rights and needs of all the members, there have, are and always will be minor disagreements and sometimes the unfortunate detrimental effect.

But generally, these can be dealt with and any adverse effect balances out over time. The important thing is that the Union will be larger and have much greater influence and power than the sum of the individual nations.

We live in a global world; we cannot afford to be parochial in our outlook. We need to truly embrace the union and bring the best of British governance and commitment right to its heart. That way we can ensure not only the prosperity, freedom and safety of the British nation, but also of all the European nations that make up the EU. Furthermore, by influence, we will be a major guiding force in the development of a free world for generations to come.

Do you still have Ukip friends? How do you think the divisions, sometimes between friends and relatives, caused by the debate can be healed after the referendum whatever the result?

I do have both friends and family who, at present, either support or lean towards the Ukip position. Ironically, in some cases, it was my previous involvement as a Ukip member that led them to adopt their stance.

However, much has changed in our world in those intervening years and I for one feel privileged to be not only a British citizen, but also a European citizen, with all the benefits that come with it. It is my firm belief that we will all be far better off in an ever strengthening union.

However, should the nation decide to withdraw and go it alone, it would be untruthful if I said that I would not feel especially let down by those friends and family who voted to leave.

Nonetheless, in time, I have no doubt they would all apologise for their mistake and I would forgive them – not that it would then do any of us any good!

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Responses to Dragon Interview: Former Ukip Candidate Who Has ‘Seen the Light’

  1. Stuart Barnes Reply

    June 5, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Rather sad really.

    A turncoat is never a pleasant thing. Especially now is it clear that the IN side is now on the run and all the impetus is for the patriotic side.

    • Andy Calladine Reply

      June 6, 2016 at 11:57 am

      In reply to Stuart Barnes:

      That is your opinion, others may think good for him.

      He saw the bigger picture, rather than the selfish philosophy being pedalled by the leave campaign of I’m all right Jack and let’s blame immigrants for all of the UK’s problems!

    • Phillip Robinson Reply

      June 6, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      In response to Mr Barnes:

      No doubt what a pleasant thing it would have been to him had my apostasy been to the Brexit cause.

      Personally, I have always found unenlightened and often xenophobic attitudes masquerading as patriotism to be the more unpleasant things.

    • Ciaran Doran Reply

      June 6, 2016 at 5:03 pm

      In reply to Stuart Barnes:

      There is absolutely nothing unpatriotic with holding the view that the United Kingdom should remain within the European Union.

      • Stuart Barnes Reply

        June 7, 2016 at 7:43 am

        There is everything unpatriotic in wishing our people to be governed by unelected and unaccountable failed politicians from minor European countries and not by our own MPs.

        • David Pillinger Reply

          June 7, 2016 at 11:56 am

          The European Commission are not failed politicians, many are former prime ministers, civil servants, government ministers, all seasoned international players with a guiding principle of common good to all the members countries.

          The collective wisdom of these guys is very strong, more so than, for example, our country elected legislatures if you consider the buffoonery of the place sometimes.

          The Commission are democratically accountable as they are nominated by our elected politicians and answerable to a democratically elected parliament in Europe and in the home countries, and if that’s good enough for 28 democratic countries why can’t it be accepted?

          A bit like our House of Lords or the civil service, the European Commission is full of wisdom and free for party politics.

          We are blessed to have them as decision making bodies, like we are blessed in the UK to have an unelected upper chamber and an hereditary head of state in the Monarch who are not swayed by populist silliness.

          David Pillinger is a Vote Remain campaign organiser.

          • Stuart Barnes

            June 8, 2016 at 7:47 am

            In reply to David Pillinger:

            If you believe that then you will believe anything. It is clear that most people do not believe it as the patriotic side are now forging ahead.

            As I know it is relevant to you, please explain the fact that the EU auditors have not been able to sign off unqualified accounts for 20 years in succession because of fraud and corruption.

  2. John Perkins Reply

    June 5, 2016 at 11:08 am

    Mr. Robinson’s failure in the 1997 Eastleigh election was probably reflected nationally. However, the 2015 result shows a very different picture.

    I too joined UKIP when it was first formed in the mid-90s and also left after the defenestration of its founder Dr Alan Sked and the move away from the single issue.

    I too have worked for many years in other EU countries (Germany, Belgium, Poland and Finland) and developed a liking for those I met there.

    So much so that I was reluctant to return to the UK. People are the same everywhere, though their rulers are not. I don’t consider my doubts about UKIP or my liking for Europe and Europeans to be any reason to reverse my stance on the EU.

    A “beacon of liberal democracy”? How many people voted for Jean-Claude Juncker and how do his threats against the UK count as liberal? Can such a beacon admit “concerns, such as the apparent lack of democratic accountability and dilution of sovereignty”?

    Polish friends tell me that their country is much less corrupt since joining the EU and a Romanian friend tells me the same about his country.

    He also made an interesting point: corruption in the EU tends towards an average and those who have suffered most in the past find that average an improvement whilst those who have enjoyed little or no corruption experience it as a deterioration.

    How very generous to forgive those friends who apologise for their mistakes. Forgiveness means nothing if it is conditional.

  3. David Pillinger Reply

    June 5, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    A demonstration of how time and life experience brings people round to understand the true value of international cooperation and harmonisation. Hat off to you Phil!

  4. George Potter Reply

    June 6, 2016 at 10:05 am

    How many people voted for Juncker?

    About as many voted directly for Cameron.

    We vote for MPs and they’re the ones who put Cameron in place as Prime Minister.

    We vote for MEPs and they’re the ones who put Junkcer in as President of the Commission.

    To me that seems fairly democratic. In both cases if you don’t like the man in charge you just have to vote for a different party at the next election and then respect the democratic outcome.

  5. T Hunt Reply

    June 6, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    The late, great Professor J. K. Galbraith once said “faced between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”

    I admire Mr. Robinson for being an exception to this rule!

  6. Nick Brougham Reply

    June 6, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Well made and compelling points Phillip!
    Glad to see the Brexiteers nationally becoming shriller and ever more strident as they lose every argument (and the plot) one-by-one.

  7. Lynda MacDermott Reply

    June 6, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    Well done Phil. Having the courage to see you got something wrong is not being a turncoat.

    Doing the best thing for your country and the people who live in it is the patriotic thing to do.

    The EU has ensured working people have decent rights at work, and jobs to go to. It has protected women in the workplace and ensures the the food we eat is of a good standard.

    There are so many positive reasons to vote Remain. In today’s world with all its uncertatinties, this is not the time to build walls and isolate ourselves but the time to build bridges and move forward together.

  8. Bob Hughes Reply

    June 6, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    Phil has come to the realisation that the so called patriotism of the Leave people is just narrow isolationism which would make British people poorer, wouldn’t control immigration and rob our young people of hope. Well done for seeing the right way forward Phil.

  9. Sue Hackman Reply

    June 6, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Thank goodness for an authentic voice in the campaign to stay or go from the EU.

    Your article about Phil Robinson was a world away from the prepared lines and thinly-concealed bigotry of other commentators.

    It takes a real man to admit a mistake and share what he’s learnt.

    Phil Robinson gave Guildford enough good reasons to remain in Europe, not because we’re frightened of leaving but because there are great reasons for building a European partnership that we can help to improve.

  10. Dale Miller Reply

    June 6, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    An excellent personal story. I can only echo the positive arguments for remaining in made by others above.

    Congratulations, Phil, on putting your arguments across so well.

  11. Ciaran Doran Reply

    June 6, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    Phillip, it must take quite something to not only have an open mind open enough to be able to change your views but to share in such a public manner the fact that your view is so significantly different to before is an encouragement to us all.

    I think many people here and in the country believe that the European Union organisation needs to change, but I believe, like many others, that the best way to enact and drive that change is from within.

    The UK is a fantastic country and one in which I’m very proud to be a citizen. However, I’m also a citizen of Europe and proud of that wider community with which we have so much more in common than we have as differences.

    Thank you for sharing your story and I hope it inspires those who are undecided as to the best way forward on 23rd June.

  12. Nicky Ford Reply

    June 6, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    We have had 50 years of peace and prosperity within the EU.

    Why play Russian roulette with all our futures?

    The leavers are asking us to jump off a cliff – to where? No one knows.

    Stay within the family of Europe that we know rather than endorse Boris` blatant self-serving bid for power. Sensible decision Phil.

  13. Jim Allen Reply

    June 7, 2016 at 7:45 am

    In response to both Nicky and Ciaran:

    The decision process to stay or leave is like owning a 30-year-old car – it’s nearly worth keeping as it ‘could be’ a classic but it will cost more than a new car to maintain.

    At what stage one makes the decision to swap the old car for a new one is down to legality, reliability and finance.

    The EU is the same.

    It is barely legal – criminals can’t be punished by extradition to their home country because every country has a worse penal system than ours.

    It is unreliable, in respect of immigration you can come here if you have a job, yet millions arrive without one and we simply can’t stop it. (A litre simply does not fit in pint pot.)

    And financially we are paying into a club £100 and getting only £50 worth of benefits.

    Rationally the old car needs to go and be replaced by a newer model.

    As for 50 years of peace – in that time life has moved on: radio valves have been replaced with surface mount technology; Spitfires have been replaced with unmanned drones; and while most haven’t argued with guns many more have, the immigration crisis is a reflection of that continuing war.

    In respect of ‘cliff Jumping’, it has become a recognised pastime for many in Cornwall and on the Welsh coast – it ain’t that dangerous! Have a little excitement.

  14. Dinah Bisdee Reply

    June 7, 2016 at 9:56 am

    How can it possibly be considered unpatriotic to vote to stay in an organisation which is our best guarantee against future loss of life in futile wars?

    Certainly, Britain stood alone in 1940. I know: my father was a Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot.

    Our situation then was desperate: we faced annihilation and the loss of all we held dear.

    Do we really want to risk that again, faced with the renewed threat from Russia, the economic competition (and co-operation, of course) from the Asian economies, and when our staunchest ally, the USA, wants us to stay in?

    Well done Phil for admitting you got it wrong, and now supporting the TRULY patriotic side.

    A woman I spoke to when leafleting told me: her grandfather fought in WW1, her father in WW2: her son and grandsons will hopefully not be required to do that, due to the existence of the EU.

    • John Perkins Reply

      June 8, 2016 at 10:55 am

      In reply to Dinah Bisdee:

      Russia is a part of Europe and a full European Union would include it.

      Millions of Russians died in two world wars in order that Europe be free. Regarding them as a threat does nothing to promote peace.

      • Stuart Barnes Reply

        June 9, 2016 at 9:13 am

        It is a bit much to suggest that millions of Russians died in the 2nd World War to set Europe free. They died actually to try to enslave Europe for totalitarian communism, and they succeeded in enslaving millions of people in their evil empire until quite recently. It was only the untiring work of two of the greatest figures of our lifetime (Lady Thatcher and President Reagan) that the chains were removed.

  15. Paul Spooner Reply

    June 7, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    Well done Phil Robinson. His international experience echoes my own, although I have been supportive of the concept of European partnership through a single market throughout my international career due to life experience.

    We do not have to be supporting the ‘in’ campaign and be unpatriotic in any way or form and we do not have to promote a negative campaign to justify saying YES to remaining in the EU on 23 June.

    My experience of several EU debates has been Eurosceptic leavers purporting doom and gloom. Hold our heads up high fellow Remainers!

    My opinion is personal and does not reflect GBC as the council has a neutral ‘corporate’ stance on the EU Referendum.

    Paul Spooner is the leader of Guildford Borough Council.

  16. NIls Christiansen Reply

    June 7, 2016 at 5:02 pm

    I really enjoyed reading Phil Robinson’s story.

    We need to find a way to work together with our European neighbours for our common good and, for all its faults, the EU does a reasonable job at this.

    Of course it’s not perfect and never will be, but that is why we should be on the inside helping to shape the future of our continent, not pretending there is some undefined better alternative on the outside.

  17. John Perkins Reply

    June 8, 2016 at 10:55 am

    Those tempted to listen to Conservative councillors echoing the party line might want to think about their recent promise to protect the green belt.

    • David Pillinger Reply

      June 9, 2016 at 9:28 am

      The green belt is nothing to do with the EU, and whether one is a Remainer or a Brexiter one has to accept that the UK’s sclerotic planning bureaucracy needs to consider all options because we are pretty sick of regulation that creates housing shortages. Brexiters hate regulation, I know.

      Trying to pin stuff like attacks on the green belt on Remainers seems like another attempt to deflect the fact that the Brexit claims have no intellectual substance other than what appears to be fear of foreigners and a love of a past world which no longer exists, I’m afraid.

  18. David Pillinger Reply

    June 9, 2016 at 9:51 am

    In reply to Stuart Barnes above:

    I believe the EU accounts have now been audited, by the way. The auditors have highlighted areas where improvements should be made and these are being addressed.

    As an experienced Finance Director and auditor, I would monitor the accounting process very closely and if necessary fire incompetent accountants. That’s how you get the accounts signed off quickly and improvements made. I am afraid that whether UK or EU governments are concerned, inefficiencies like this always arise. This is not a reason to leave the EU! We should work to improve the institutions and make them more efficient whether in the EU, UK or even Guildford County Council! All are full of gross inefficiencies. Wingeing gets us nowhere, only action does.

  19. Sue Doughty Reply

    June 11, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    This is a great story and well done Phil.

    I saw you out campaigning today with a good heart.

    Immigrants from Europe tend to only come here when there is a job – the high cost of living sees to that.

    It’s very easy to forget that the majority of immigrants not only work here, often doing jobs that others don’t want like caring for our older people, but they make a net contribution in taxes.

    As to criminals being extradited to their own countries to face trial – of course it happens even Pinochet erstwhile friend of Thatcher had to go.

    Yes, we should stay in and continue to work to improve processes in Europe.

    But don’t forget that our laws are made by a parliament where one house is completely unelected except for the small number of hereditary peers who are elected by each other.

    Indeed, our electoral system is one of the worst in Europe allowing a majority government to be elected by just over 36% of the votes. Be fair, don’t criticise others without looking at ourselves.

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