Brexit is now a reality, but one of the driving forces behind its original idea was Nigel Farage. But, who is he? And how did he become some a prominent person in British politics? Business Leader investigates.
Life before politics
The 56-year-old was born in Farnborough in 1964. His father was a City stockbroker and antique dealer, whose family had both French and Germany ancestry.
From 1975 to 1982, Farage was privately educated at Dulwich College in South London, when he also became an active member of the Conservative Party. While at Dulwich, he became prefect – however, a teacher at the school expressed concerns to the schools leadership after Farage had expressed alleged fascist views to other pupils. This was rejected, and put down to the fact that he liked to provoke far left members of the staff.
After leaving school, he became a trader for the next 21 years on the London Metal Exchange for Drexel Burnham Lambert, Credit Lyonnair Rouse, Refco and Natixis
Political career prior to Brexit
Farage officially joined the Conservative Party in 1978 – however, he left in 1992 in opposition to Prime Minister John Major’s decision to sign the Treaty on European Union in Maastricht. He also voted for the Green Party in 1989 due to their Eurosceptic policies.
Farage was elected to the European Parliament in 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014. He stayed in the role until the end of the Brexit transition in 2020. Farage was also one of the founding members of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and lead it from 2006 to 2009, and then again from 2010 to 2016. Between his two reigns as leader of the party, he contested and lost the seat of Buckingham in the 2010 General Election.
As Leader of UKIP, he led the party through the 2009 European Elections and won the second-highest share of the popular vote – defeating Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
In the 2014 European Elections, Farage’s UKIP won 24 seats – the first time a party other than the Conservatives or Labour had won the largest number of seats in a national election since 1910. This added the already mounting pressure to call a referendum on EU membership.
Following this, UKIP secured the third largest number of votes at the 2015 General Election – surpassing the Liberal Democrats. However, Farage offered to resign after he failed to win his seat in South Thanet – but his party rejected this and he remained leader.
Farage was a leading figure in the 2016 Brexit Referendum, where 52% of the UK voted to leave the European Union.
Over the past four years, he has campaigned for June 23rd to be a national holiday, as Britain’s ‘Independence Day’.
In a now famous speech to the European Parliament shorty after the vote, Farage revealed that after 17 years, he had finally got his wish for Britain to leave the EU.
However, after the referendum vote, he resigned as leader, but remained as the MEP. Two years later, he quit UKIP and in 2019 he launched the Brexit Party, after becoming frustrated in the delayed implantation of the results of the 2016 referendum. In May that year, his party won the most votes at the European elections – becoming the largest single party.
Shortly after his resignation from UKIP, he backed the Vote Leave and Leave.EU campaigns – but later distanced himself from Vote Leave after growing tired with their lack of drive to finish the transition. The group was led by prominent Conservatives Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.
Farage left the UKIP party after its association with far-right activist Tommy Robinson and the direction it was taking under leader Gerard Batten. Farage believed the party had strayed from its original goal of independence rather than a ‘religious crusade’. He also believed its association with far-right political figures had damaged what Brexit was meant to stand for.
In February 2019, the Brexit Party became official – and Farage sat as an MEP for the party. He became the leader of the party in March.
A few months later, Conservative MPs and Farage agreed to work together to get Britain out of the single market, customs union and the EU Court of Justice – after mutually growing tired of the delays in enacting Brexit.
After the successful European Elections, Farage announced 635 general election candidates for the Brexit party, however, he later announced he would not stand himself. The aims of the party were to secure seats in traditional Labour seats in Northern England, the Midlands, Wales and other areas of the UK. In return the party would not contest seats in Conservative strongholds. The goal was to enable a swift Brexit transition working with the Conservatives.
However, Prime Minister Boris Jonson rejected this and the party gained over 600,000 votes, but not seats in Parliament. It was widely reported that this effort did help swing the balance of power towards a conservative majority.
On January 31st 2020 – known as ‘Brexit Day’ – Farage told a large crowd in London ‘We are never going back’. In December that year, Farage celebrated the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, as Britain officially left the EU.
What is next for Farage?
Following his much-publicised political affiliation with Donald Trump and his popular radio show – there are many wondering what is next for this controversial figure.
With the Brexit Party reforming as Reform UK – will its campaigns against further lockdowns gain popularity across the country?
Comment below on what you think of Farage, and what the future holds for himself and his new party.