UKIP-EXIT? Nigel Farage departure suggests uncertain future for party
by AMI Newswire
Nigel Farage is saying goodbye, again.
The British political leader more responsible than any other for the Brexit vote to leave the European Union is now leaving the party he helped found after over 25 years.
Farage announced this week that he was quitting the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) this week, claiming it has become too aggressive and anti-Muslim under the direction of its current leader Gerard Batten.
The trigger was Batten’s recent selection of street activist Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) as a senior adviser this past month. Robinson founded the English Defence League (EDL) in 2009 before himself leaving the group claiming street protests were “no longer effective” and that the danger of far-right extremism loomed large.
Batten and Robinson are expected to speak at a protest in London on Sunday, with the new UKIP leader Batten referring to Farage’s comments as “sour grapes.”
Batten recently claimed to have “saved UKIP” following Farage’s departure, though party insiders have noted UKIP is no longer standing candidates in special elections across the United Kingdom, and the party continues to poll at just 4 per cent despite Prime Minister Theresa May’s unpopular Brexit compromise deal. Under Farage UKIP polled as high as 20 per cent.
Westminster voting intention:
CON: 40% (-)
LAB: 38% (+3)
LDEM: 9% (-1)
GRN: 4% (+1)
UKIP: 4% (-2)
via @YouGov, 03 – 04 Dec
Chgs. w/ 27 Nov
— Britain Elects (@BritainElects) December 5, 2018
In his resignation message the man known as “Mr. Brexit” — also famous for posing in President Donald Trump’s New York penthouse just 2 days after the 2016 U.S. election — complained that the upcoming march may provide ammunition to opponents of the split from the EU.
“Two days before the most important parliamentary vote of modern times and the image that will give of what Brexit stands for will is something that is enemies will use against us for perhaps many years to come,” said Farage. “Damaging UKIP is one thing; damaging the Brexit cause is even worse.”
With a heavy heart, and after all my years of devotion to the party, I am leaving @UKIP today. pic.twitter.com/xJk4a2P494
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) December 4, 2018
The long-sitting Member of the European Parliament is not the only one set to leave the party. UKIP’s former leader Paul Nuttall and David Coburn, its leader in Scotland, both resigned from the party since Robinson was appointed.
The defections of Nigel and other senior UKIP leaders raise the possibility that Farage and his followers could launch a new party.
Gawain Towler, the former spokesperson for UKIP, said “It would be the logical thing but, it is not planned. Nobody planned for UKIP to become the Tommy Robinson [party]. A lot will depend on what happens on Sunday and the damage they are doing to Brexit.”
Raheem Kassam, a former senior advisor to Farage and a recent supporter of Robinson’s said “this is a disaster for everyone except Gerard Batten. He’s pushing Tommy to become a party political figure, which is a waste of his time and talents, and has effectively destroyed UKIP just so Gerard can get a few more publicity shots of him in front of a large crowd. It is not strategic. It is selfish”.
British voters by a margin of 52% to 48% supported a referendum in 2016 that the United Kingdom should leave the European Union – an intergovernmental political and economic organization. For Farage and others this vote marked an important victory. UKIP was founded in 1993 as an organization skeptical about the benefits of British membership in the European Union. As part of the European Union the United Kingdom is in a common market with the other members states and must allow free-movement and residency for citizens of other EU member states.
On Tuesday, British parliamentarians are expected to vote on the Brexit plan proposed by British Prime Minister of Theresa May. A two-year transition period in which the UK will slowly leave the European Union is set to begin March of next year. However, Farage’s supporters and some members of the Conservative Party charge that May’s deal is a portrayal of the 2016 referendum as it fails to fully end the UK’s relationship with the EU.
Farage lashed out at Batten in a speech announcing his departure from the party for not understanding why UKIP was started.
“He seems to be pretty obsessed with [Islam]… UKIP wasn’t founded to be a party fighting a religious crusade”.
Farage is not the only person associated with UKIP worried about the party’s direction, Towler added.
“People are leaving UKIP, because of reputational damage caused by Tommy Robinson. I spoke to an elected member of the party this week who said ‘nobody elected me on a Tommy Robinson ticket. I was elected on a Brexit ticket.’ ”
Farage is expected to speak at a gathering of American conservatives in Florida later this month. As the defections from UKIP mount, the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom could benefit if voters switch to supporting the Tories, though there is also the possibility of Farage urging his fans to support other movements.
“With enthusiasm for the current withdrawal deal seemingly at an impasse, Brexit is in dire need of a positive image,” said Joe Ventre, of Conservative Friends of the U.S.A ”As Farage rightly recognized, UKIP marching on Whitehall with Tommy Robinson is unlikely to help.”
Source: American Media Institute