Nigel Farage, the British politician without whom there would never have been a Brexit vote, dramatically quit on Monday morning as leader of the anti-E.U. UK Independence Party, aka UKIP.
David Cameron made his ill-advised pledge to hold a referendum on British E.U. membership in January 2013, when Farage’s UKIP were enjoying a spike in polling numbers and making headway in local elections. Seeing a way to blunt the appeal of UKIP to traditional Conservative voters, Cameron announced his in/out referendum, never imagining for a moment the UK would vote to Leave.
The short-term tactic worked, and the Conservatives were returned with an overall majority at the 2015 General Election, while Farage himself was not elected.
In a press call this morning at Westminster, Farage said: “I have decided to stand aside as leader of UKIP. The victory for the ‘leave’ side in the referendum means that my political ambition has been achieved. I came into this struggle from business because I wanted us to be a self-governing nation, not to become a career politician.
“UKIP is in a good position and will continue, with my full support to attract a significant vote. Whilst we will now leave the European Union, the terms of our withdrawal are unclear. If there is too much backsliding by the government and with the Labor party detached from many of its voters then UKIP’s best days may be yet to come.”
It's just the latest unexpected event in what has been one of the most dramatic ten days in British political history.
Although Farage has never succeeded in being elected as a member of the British Parliament, he is, ironically enough, a member of the European Parliament, a body he professes to loathe.
He said today that he and other UKIP MEPs would remain in the European parliament until the UK left and the roles no longer existed, something he hoped would happen within two years.
He added: “The Ukippers will have been the turkeys who voted for Christmas.”
Despite being the leading light in the public campaign to get Britain out of Europe, Farage has been consistently sidelined by the political establishment, and it was inconceivable that the Conservative government would have given him any formal role in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.