Nigel Farage quits as Ukip leader

Nigel Farage, the leader of Britain's right-wing UKIP political party is stepping down, meaning one of the most outspoken anti-EU campaigners won't be in the debate about how Britain will sever its ties from the bloc.
Mr Farage, one of the most outspoken and effective anti-EU campaigners, will remain a lawmaker in the EU Parliament, saying he wanted to keep pressure on the next prime minister over Brexit.
Mr Farage, one of the most outspoken and effective anti-EU campaigners, will remain a lawmaker in the EU Parliament, saying he wanted to keep pressure on the next prime minister over Brexit.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • The leader of Britain's insurgent right-wing populist UK Independence Party (Ukip) says he is stepping down after realising his ambition to win a vote for Britain to leave the European Union.

The departure of brash former commodities trader Nigel Farage would sideline one of the most outspoken and effective anti-EU campaigners from the debate about how to sever Britain's ties with the other 27 countries in the bloc.

"I have never been, and I have never wanted to be, a career politician. My aim in being in politics was to get Britain out of the European Union," he said yesterday.

"So I feel it's right that I should now stand aside as leader of Ukip."

The referendum result marked a personal success for Mr Farage, who in the early 1990s helped to found a party later described by Prime Minister David Cameron as "a bunch of fruitcakes, loonies, and closet racists". That represented a misjudgment as the Prime Minister found himself having to turn more eurosceptic to maintain his party's appeal among voters, ultimately calling the referendum on EU membership which sank him.

Mr Farage helped to set up Ukip after then Prime Minister John Major signed the Maastricht Treaty, which paved the way for a more integrated EU.

He will remain a lawmaker in the EU Parliament that he joined in 1999, saying yesterday that he wanted to keep pressure on whoever is the next prime minister to take Britain out of the single market and cut immigration.

His resignation could give Ukip - which won a single seat in Parliament last year - a chance to pick a less polarising figure and take on the mainstream in what is likely to be a radically altered political environment. Ukip candidates placed second in scores of constituencies in the last general election, challenging the Conservatives across much of southern England and contributing to an erosion of support for Labour in working-class areas in the north.

Britain's two main political parties are in disarray after the vote to leave the EU, with the ruling Conservatives seeking a replacement for Mr Cameron and lawmakers from the main opposition Labour Party voting to withdraw confidence in leader Jeremy Corbyn.

It is the second time Mr Farage has resigned in just over a year. He quit in May last year when he failed to get elected to Parliament, only to reverse that decision three days later.

"During the referendum campaign, I said I want my country back. What I'm saying today is, 'I want my life back', and it begins right now," said Mr Farage, who has two teenage daughters with his wife Kirsten Mehr, a German citizen. "I won't be changing my mind again, I can promise you."

The government, which failed to convince voters that a Leave vote would cause economic harm, is now racing to reduce the damage.

Finance Minister George Osborne has abandoned his target of balancing the Budget within four years and floated the idea of a cut in corporate tax to 15 per cent from 20 per cent. The Labour Party accused him of trying to turn Britain into an offshore tax haven.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2016, with the headline 'Nigel Farage quits as Ukip leader'. Print Edition | Subscribe