Interview Conducted by Jörg Schindler
Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is leading in the British polls ahead of the European Parliament elections. In an interview, the former UKIP front man talks about upending the UK political system and how he plans to do it.
He’s back. Not only that, but he seems to be in better spirits then ever, still flashing that ginormous smile that makes him look like nothing more than his own Simpsons caricature. Nigel Farage — former head of the right-wing, EU-skeptical UKIP party and, with his xenophobic manifesto, a key facilitator of Brexit — is once again traveling through the United Kingdom on the eve of European Parliament elections. And no matter where he stops, the venues are packed. His Brexit Party, which was formed earlier this year, is way ahead in the polls and all signs seem to indicate that it will crush Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives on May 23, the day the vote will be held in Britain. But that, Farage says on the sidelines of an event in Lincoln, is just the beginning.
DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Farage, does the Brexit Party have more than just a single political goal?
Nigel Farage: Oh yes. My previous incarnation in UKIP was all about forcing and winning a referendum. And here we are, three years on, there is no Brexit, not even a prospect of Brexit. The Brexit party has been set up to use the European elections as the first stepping-stone towards attempting to completely change the political system in this country. This is now much more about taking on the entire political establishment.
DER SPIEGEL: What kind of changes are you talking about?
Farage: Electoral reform, getting rid of the House of Lords, which is now full of 700 friends of Tony Blair and David Cameron. Our whole system has been corrupted. We want fundamental political change — the right, as in Switzerland, for people to call referendums. It’s about breaking the two-party system.
DER SPIEGEL: Winning the European elections, of course, won’t be enough. Do you expect another general election in Britain this year?
Farage: Probably. It’s likely to happen before Christmas.
DER SPIEGEL: What makes you think that the Brexit Party will do better than UKIP did in the last elections, when the party ended up with no MPs?
Farage: This feels much bigger than UKIP.
DER SPIEGEL: Feels. But is it?
Farage: It will be. UKIP always had some huge problems. Although I tried very hard as leader to keep some of the more extreme and nutty elements out of it, we always suffered a bit in branding terms from that. We haven’t got that problem here. If you look at our 70 candidates for the EU elections, we have people from the left and the right of the spectrum; it’s much more diverse. The desire in the country to change things is very strong.
DER SPIEGEL: Is the Brexit Party more than Nigel Farage?
Farage: Yes. I’ve got some very good people with me.
DER SPIEGEL: But you have total control of the party?
Farage: Oh, absolutely. I am not mucking about with national executives and being pushed around. I’ve set this up like a company in terms of structures and how it operates.
DER SPIEGEL: Meaning?
Farage: In most political parties, it’s the delegates who decide in the end. I am going to cut that out completely. There will be no delegate level at all. I will engage directly with the members and subscribers, have talks with them about our policy. The only comparison I can think of in the Western world with what I am doing here is the Five Star Movement in Italy. I’ve learned a lot from Italy and a huge amount from America and I am doing this in a very different way.
DER SPIEGEL: You have demanded a place at the Brexit negotiating table. How do plan to get one? You don’t have any leverage.
Farage: If we win the European elections, and we will, we have to have a say in where the country goes from here. If the Conservative government denies that to us, they will look even more stupid. It’s their choice.
DER SPIEGEL: According to a survey by the Hansard Society, a majority in Britain longs for a “strong leader who is willing to break the rules.” Is that you?
Farage: Well, I am able to bend the rules (laughs). I have always seen myself as being an agent for change. I can make arguments. I can shift the center of gravity in public opinion. I have been very good at that in the past and I think I am still good at it. If this party goes where I think it may, it will change British politics.
DER SPIEGEL: What do you plan to do in Europe? Will you try to break up that system too?
Farage: That’s not easy. I am not anti-European; I am anti-European Union. But the reality of the Brexit Party is: Our enemy is not Brussels, our enemy is not Mr. Juncker, our enemy is Downing Street and Westminster. Our enemy is the civil service, our enemy is the people that have denied us the conclusion of the referendum result.
DER SPIEGEL: Who would be your ideal Tory leader?
Farage: I really don’t know at the moment.
DER SPIEGEL: Boris Johnson?
Farage: Possibly. But the trouble is, he voted in the end for Theresa May’s deal, which is like the surrender document of a country that has been defeated in war.