I’m aware that not everybody in this country is happy. Indeed, a lot of young people have been wound up by scare stories and are actually very angry and very scared about their future. It’s an irony really, that it’s the youth of a country that appear to be worried right across the whole of the European Union. It is the under-30s that are protesting in the streets against undemocratic centralised control and indeed against the Euro and virtually everything that emanates from Brussels. In time, I hope that some of these sharp divisions can be healed when people start to realise that actually life outside the European Union is really very exciting and we’ve got a much better, brighter future in charge of our own lives. And certainly, the stock markets, despite everything George Osborne told us, have rallied very strongly. FTSE is now about 14 per cent higher than it was during it’s February lows, addling a great delight to see the number of Commonwealth countries rushing forward in a bidding war to be the first people to sign a free trade deal with an independent United Kingdom.
What the country needs is strong leadership. What it needs is direction. What it needs is not business as usual. I’m certain of one thing, I’m certain that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. We’ve won that. And in terms of our Parliament, and in terms of our courts that’s a great historic victory. What I’m less certain of is what deal this government are going to cut. And we need a new Prime Minister who puts down some clear red lines: that we’re not going to give in on issues like free movement. And we need a Prime Minister that is not going to sell us out to what is known as the Single Market but effectively a big business protectionist cartel.
So we need a vision from our new leader, a vision that shows that we’re going to be engaged with the world and turn us into an enterprise economy, and to do that and to achieve that, a team of negotiators that include figures from across the political spectrum, which reflects that Brexit vote, and crucially, we need some business people, who know not only how the world works, but understand the importance of lobbying industry directly.
We need to be lobbying the German car industry, the French wine producers, because next year, both France and Germany have general elections. It is pressure on Merkel; it is pressure on Hollande from within those countries that is likely to get us the best possible deal. And we need to go global and there is no reason to wait for this at all.
As soon as we get a new Prime Minister, we need teams and negotiators. I’m told we have got the skill; I’m told we don’t have the confidence or the expertise within our own civil service, which I suppose is the price you pay when you give away the ability to run your own country. So let’s help them. Let’s get them in from Singapore, or South Korea, or Chile, or Switzerland, or any of these countries who’ve managed to achieve far more in terms of global trade deals than we have as part of the European Union. So we are now in charge of our own future and I want us to grab this opportunity with both hands.
Now one of the questions that is being asked is, what of Ukip? What is the future for Ukip after this result? Well we’ve clearly established ourselves as the third political force in this country, and this year we have extended our elective representation to the Welsh Assembly and to the London Assembly. And there’s no doubt that without us, without the growth in Ukip, there would not have been a referendum. And there’s also no doubt that when it came to the ground campaign in this referendum, it was the people’s army of Ukip who were out there, delivering the leaflets, putting out the posters, and doing all that work that needed, desperately, to be done. And I do believe myself, that it’s Ukip, and Ukip’s messages that inspired non-voters to go out there and make the difference. Without Ukip, there is no way that the Leave vote would ever have got over the line. So Ukip needs to be strong.
We need to be strong and push to try and make sure that this country gets the best possible terms. And in electoral terms, well, the party now has built up a very loyal following of people, who want to go out and vote Ukip at every given opportunity. And they see us, our voters, they see us as being the one party that’s actually prepared to stand up for ordinary, decent people. I feel that the deeper the crisis in the Labour party becomes, and there are certainly no signs of that going away, the further the Parliamentary Labour party and Labour leadership get away from their own voters. I feel, perhaps, that’s where our greatest potential lies. Ukip right now is in a very sound financial position, I do believe we need some reform of its management structures, I think there is further professionalism that needs to be done. But the party is in a pretty good place, certainly, compared to all the others. And if we do not get a satisfactory Brexit deal, that allied to the woes of the Labour party and that ground swallowing level of support from Ukip loyalists, if we don’t get a good Brexit deal, then in 2020, watch this space.
And the other subject of speculation has been, what am I going to do? Well, all I can say on this long journey is a huge thanks to all who are in this room today. And it has been a very long journey. Not at every stage of the way, an easy one, although most of it, I have to say, has been tremendous fun. But when I think back, to when I first stood for Ukip, or in fact when I stood for anybody, in the Eastleigh by-election which took place in 1994, and I managed to scrape past screaming Lord Sutch by a massive 164 votes, and to have gone from that to being part of a national campaign that attracted 17.5 million votes for Brexit, says to me, tough as though it has been at times, it has certainly all been worth it. I came into politics from business because I believed that this nation should be self-governing. 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.
That is what we voted for in that referendum two weeks ago and that is why I now feel that I’ve done my bit, that I couldn’t possibly achieve more than we managed to get in that referendum, and so I feel it’s right that I should now stand aside as leader of Ukip. I will continue to support the party, I will support the new leader. I will watch the negotiation process in Brussels like a hawk and perhaps comment in the European Parliament, from time to time. I’m also very keen to help the independence movements that are springing up in other parts of the European Union, because I’m certain of one thing: you haven’t seen the last country that wants to leave the EU. It has been a huge chunk of my life, doing this, and it’s not easy, perhaps, when you feel a degree of ownership of something, to let it go. But it does come, as I say, at a cost to me and to those around me. During the referendum campaign, I said I want my country back; what I’m saying today, is that I want my life back. It begins right now. Thank you!
First of all, you have stepped down before, famously, and returned. How can we be sure that won’t happen again?
Well yeah, you’re right. When I said that it’s not all been easy over the last 25 years, I have to confess that some of it has been made tougher by myself, of course. None of us get everything right. Look, I stood down last year because I said that I would, and politics is a rollercoaster. In 2014, we won the European elections. The first party that wasn’t Labour or Tories since 1906 that won a national election. But last year, despite nearly four million votes, the results were disappointing. I was persuaded to come back for one reason – and that was to fight this referendum. And I’m very pleased I changed my mind just over a year ago and came back, and fought this referendum. I won’t be changing my mind again, I can promise you.
Nigel, you said you wanted a strong leader to secure us a good Brexit deal. Which candidate would be able to do that? Do you agree with Arron Banks that this person is Andrea Leadsom?
I’m not related to Arron Banks, I’m not in a civil partnership with him or anything like that. You know, Arron has supported Ukip, but he’s also supported many eurosceptic causes. Indeed, he’s one of the great heroes of this movement. But he speaks for himself and I speak for myself that we have to have a Brexit Prime Minister. We have to have someone who’s bold, someone with a vision. This a big moment in the history of the country. As I see it, there are three candidates who supported the Brexit campaign, but I’m not going to damn any one of them by offering my support at this moment in time, but I want it very much to be one of the three. This is not a moment for business as usual. This is a moment for radical leadership, for inspiration, and to take advantage of the unbelievable global opportunities that are there before us.
Am I right in therefore thinking that you’re going to leave politics and you’re not going to form a new party with Arron Banks or any other people with a eurosceptic persuasion?
I mean I do like this Banks chap, but I’m getting very bored with these questions. No, I’ve made it perfectly clear I’m standing aside, you know? I’m going to see out my time in the European Parliament. I will go on co-leading that group in the European parliament, and I will watch very closely and very carefully once Article 50 has been triggered, how those negotiations will go. And I will continue to support Ukip, a party that, as I said, is in a very good position. We’re in a very strong position, a sound position, one or two reforms that need making, one or two steps up the party needs. But no, I will go on supporting Ukip, supporting my leadership, and let’s see what happens. You know, I mean, honestly, if the government does not get a good deal, if it gives in over free movement, if it concedes over this dreadful single market, then I think Ukip’s best days have yet to come.
Notwithstanding what you said in answer to the other question about candidates to the Tory leadership, do you see the potential for closer cooperation wherever that goes, with a Conservative party that’s led by someone you find acceptable, over time? Could we be moving in that direction? You don’t rule it out?
Do you know, if there was to be a general election this Autumn, I don’t think there will be, but if there was, my own view would be that Ukip should not be wasting resources and talent and energy against people who had the guts to stand up against their own party leaderships and fight for Brexit. So, you know, longer term, depending who becomes the leader, you know, we may see a different kind of politics. And actually, you know, when I said the effects had been seismic, I fully expect that within the next couple of years, we’ll see some different parties in British politics, because I think the likelihood now of a wing of the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats getting together is quite high. I know for all of you working in Westminster this last week has been tumultuous. I suspect there’s quite a lot more to come.
Mr Farage, what sort of role do you envisage Ukip having precisely within the negotiations? Do you think you have to be a part of the negotiation team with the EU, and what did you make of Philip Hammond’s view this morning that in the end there will have to be some sort of concession on the free movement issue for any sort of access to the single market?
Ok, I think it is desirable that there is a cross party element to these negotiations because that reflects the vote. That reflects the cross party nature of the Eurosceptic movement. But even more important than that, is that we use people who genuinely understand how Brussels works, and who’ve got extensive networks and contacts, you know, with the German car industry, with French manufacturers or wine producers. You know, the idea that we should approach these negotiations simply as elected politicians from one party, meeting in corridors in Brussels, is the wrong approach. It needs more breadth, more imagination, so an absolute priority is to bring in business people, but a desirability. And a message to the country, to try and bring people together, to try and make people understand that this is about more than the Conservative party though they happen to be in government. It’s about our country choosing a new course. You know, I mean look, I have no idea whether they want to ask me or anybody else in Ukip to be part of this. But we do actually, as a party, have some good knowledge of how Brussels works and we’ve got some pretty senior business figures amongst our supporters. Now as for what deal the government cuts, yes I understand already we’re beginning to hear people saying that actually, there’s going to be backsliding in these negotiations. 17.5 million people voted very clearly for us to be an independent nation that is not part of the customs union called the single market and without the free movement of people, and I suspect, you know, that what we will do is try and keep the pressure on. But if they do give way, then I repeat the point: as far as Ukip is concerned, for the 2020 elections, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
What will you do next? Would you like, for example, to be part of the team that negotiates Brexit? And who do you think should be the next leader of Ukip? Douglas Carswell might have a very good argument.
That’s a terribly good idea, I like that. Look, I repeat the point that we do have the biggest delegation of British MEPs in the European Parliament. We will necessarily be a part of this process whether it’s formally or informally, because much of what is discussed will get debated and voted on in the European Parliament. If a Brexit government wants to use Ukip or Ukip figures more — and it should think about some Labour people as well — then that will be all to the good. And as far as who should succeed me in Ukip, I’m going to keep very quiet on that and may the best man, or best woman, win.
Since the referendum victory, a lot of the Conservative Party that wanted Brexit have been trying to back away from you as fast as possible. I wondered how you felt about that? They say it was nothing to with you, or immigration, that it was all about Carswellian sovereignty ideas — do you agree with that?
I’m not a career politician, that’s how career politicians think and speak. They think about the tribe of their party before they think of their country. I’m going to step aside. What will happen now is that in future, I won’t be constrained when I answer questions like that: the real me will now come out. They can make it up as much as they want. I repeat the point: there would not have been a referendum without UKIP, there would not have been an effective ground game in the Leave Campaign without the UKIP people’s army. Unless we’d taken took on some of those issues that many in Westminster or smart dinner parties in Notting Hill find a little bit tricky, we’d have never got those non-voters to turn out and that’s what made the difference and got us over the line.
Nigel, you’ve still got at least two years to serve as an MEP. Do you intend to serve that out in full and take a part in European proceedings? And during the negotiations, do you intend to try and influence them from within the party and within the parliament?
Yes, is the answer to that, of course. There will be a strong UKIP voice in that Parliament during these renegotiations and if we see significant backsliding or weakness, or frankly, appeasement from the British government, we will certainly say so. And are we going to see out two years? Well, I very much hope that the next Prime Minister is someone who intends to roll their sleeves up and complete the job well within two years. And then the Ukippers will have been the turkeys who voted for Christmas.
Do you think the tone that you took in the European Parliament during negotiations last week was a good negotiating tactic that will help get us the best Brexit deal for the UK?
Well, it’s probably useful to get some context. I got up to speak after what was, without a doubt, the worst event ever in the history of the European Union project, and I was so howled down and shouted down, that twice, Martin Schultz sprang to my defence. Now I’ve not seen this happen before. It was quite extraordinary. It showed the fact that they are simply not prepared to listen. They will continue with their political project which is why is it doomed. So in the face of many catcalls and a huge amount of abuse they got a tiny little piece of my mind back. And actually how should we negotiate, well all I will say is that if we start to be weak if we start to concede in these negotiations then we will get a rotten deal. And we need a Prime Minister that recognises that we have indeed got the trump cards. And we’ve got the trump cards because we buy a damn sight more from them than they do from us. And the opportunity for Brexit actually comes before the German election and before the French election. We need to stand up for ourselves. And some of the arguments I’m hearing — we can’t get access to the single market unless we’re members of that single market. Just looking at the figures yesterday — something like nearly 1.5 trillion Euros worth of goods were sold into the Eurozone last year by countries that haven’t even got a trade deal so let’s recognise the strength of our negotiating position.
If we are going to hear from the real you, may I ask what you make of the various attempts to unseat you in the past and will you bury the hatchet with Douglas Carswell?
I’ll bury the hatchet with anybody, you know. I mean look, when you lead a political party, and I’ve been doing this for quite a long time, you know, you necessarily make decisions along the way not everyone is happy with, your style will not suit everybody, but you know, I’ve no desire to do anything other than to fully support the aims of Ukip and the next leader and as I won’t be the person making all the decisions there’ll be less room for falling out with people as well.
Will the next leader be Douglas Carswell?
Well it may well be. I mean, get down to the bookies if you want, but I wouldn’t put too much on it myself if I were you.
Can I ask what conversations, if any, you’ve had with either Andrea Leadsom or with Arron Banks about the Tory leadership? And just to be clear, are you putting yourself forward to be a member of the team negotiating Brexit in Brussels?
No I’m not putting myself forward. I did spend 20 years in business, I have spent quite a lot of time in Brussels. I might have something to give if they want it, if they don’t it’s fine, all right. And as for who I’m speaking to, I do speak to Mr Banks quite regularly but I repeat the point, I don’t do everything he suggests.