Pro-Brexit leader Nigel Farage steps down: 'I've done my bit'

The Ukip party leader announced on Monday that he would be stepping down following the success of the campaign to leave the European Union.

Neil Hall/Reuters
Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, speaks at a news conference in central London. On Monday, he announced that he would be stepping down following the success of the campaign to leave the European Union.

Britain's campaign to leave the European Union has lost another of its leaders.

Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip), announced on Monday that he would be stepping down from the party's top position following the success of the “Brexit” campaign.

“I now feel that I’ve done my bit, that I couldn’t possibly achieve more than we managed to get in that referendum,” Mr. Farage said in a speech, “and so I feel it’s right that I should now stand aside as leader of Ukip.”

Over the course of a decade, Farage led the Ukip from the fringe into a far-right alternative with electoral clout, and helped move the political dial toward an exit from the European Union – an outcome he had sought from the beginning of his political career, and one matched with an equally fervent desire to see newly restrictive policies on immigration.

A former commodities trader, Farage said he “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.” 

His resignation marks the third time he has left the Ukip leadership: most recently, he stepped down after failing to win a parliamentary seat in 2015, only to return days later to lead Ukip’s campaign to leave the European Union. His departure this time around comes just a week after Boris Johnson, another prominent face of the pro-Brexit movement who seemed poised to take the reins of a post-EU Britain, stunned the country with the announcement that he was pulling out of the race for prime minister.

Once dismissed by former Prime Minister David Cameron as a party of “fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists,” the Ukip has grown to become the third-biggest party in British politics, riding a wave of anti-immigrant and anti-EU sentiment among the white working class. The party is seen as a haven of outright racism by many of its opponents.

Farage drew heavy criticism during the Brexit campaign for a poster depicting a line of Syrian refugees under a tag reading "Breaking Point," which critics compared to anti-Semitic posters before World War II.

After the results of the referendum were announced, he exulted in a victory achieved "without a single bullet being fired," condemned by many as distasteful days after the fatal shooting of Labour MP Jo Cox, who had championed refugees' cause. 

Farage remains a member of the European Parliament, the body where he made his name in 2010 by aiming a barrage of insults at European Council President Herman van Rompuy, who Farage said had "all the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk" and hailed from the "non-country" of Belgium.

Days after the Brexit referendum took place, Farage again raised heckles in the European Parliament, where he taunted his naysayers:

"Isn't it funny? When I came here 17 years ago and I said that I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union, you all laughed at me – well I have to say, you’re not laughing now, are you?" he asked. "The reason you’re so upset, you’re so angry, has been perfectly clear, from all the angry exchanges this morning. You are a political project are in denial." 

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