Saxo on Brexit: Farage walks — what next?
- UKIP leader Nigel Farage resigns his post this morning
- Farage quit previously after 2015 UK election before reconsidering
- Farage announced resignation in London saying 'he's done his bit'
- Farage: 'We've got our country back' and "I never wanted to be a career politician'
- Brexit campaigner says UK needs a 'Brexit prime minister'
- Brexit coalition completely ripped apart within 10 days of the vote
- Leading lights Johnson, Gove and Farage all caught in furious post-Brexit storm
- READ MORE ON OUR BREXIT PAGES
UKIP leader Nigel Farage has resigned as the Brexit
fallout claims another high-profile casualty. Photo: iStock
By Martin O'Rourke
Out of victory, so often comes defeat. Well, that perhaps is a bit harsh as the resignation of Nigel Farage this morning as leader of UKIP came at his own behest at a time of his making and, it is more than fair to say, following the culmination of perhaps the best he could possibly hope to achieve as a politician.
In football terms, they often say it is best to go out when you are at the top and for Farage, perhaps this is the pinnacle of everything he can hope to get as a politician. He was on the winning side after all and, however long this spins out, the UK will as it stands exit EU membership at some point in the next 2-3 years once article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is invoked.
It was a typical Farage performance. Wrong-footing the media, he listed his reasons as to why now was a good time to go telling reporters: "What I said during the referendum campaign is I want my country back. What I’m saying today is I want my life back. And it begins right now.”
Farage said UKIP was in a "pretty good place" and that the party would continue to fight against any "backsliding" on Brexit adding that the UK needs "a Brexit prime minister".
What now then for the Brexit ship? Farage will no doubt continue to play a prominent part in the debate even as he takes a break, but charismatic Brexiteer Boris Johnson is out of the running for the Conservative Party leadership and de facto UK prime minister role with seemingly no route back into the process until probably 2020 at least.
Meanwhile, Michael Gove, justice minister and campaign manager for Brexit is struggling to re-establish his credibility after ruthlessly shafting people's champion Johnson last week in a manoeuvre that might have had the emperor Caligula purring at the sheer audacity.
That leaves party leader candidate Andrea Leadsom as the sole leading light left out of the Brexit campaign if we are to dismiss the pretty universally-loathed zealot Iain Duncan-Smith as peripheral to the debate. He did after all have his time as Conservative Party leader and his "the quiet man" persona really fooled no-one. Except perhaps himself.
So within ten days of the landmark decision, two of the leading lights — Johnson and Farage — have exited and the other, Gove, is sinking in a sea of quicksand that threatens to derail his leadership bid almost as soon as it started.
Leadsom aside, that has left the Brexit bandwagon with barely a wheel in place and facing the prospect of a Conservative party leader and future UK prime minister — Theresa May — who is lukewarm about the whole Brexit process.
Theresa May has already said she would not invoke
article 50 before year-end. Photo: WikiCommonsMedia
May has already ruled out invoking article 50 until 2017 and she will almost certainly look to buy as much time as possible to help establish London's negotiating position and perhaps build a case at some point for a watered-down exit perhaps relying on a change of heart among the public as the wearisome Brexit process rumbles on.
How does that make the majority that voted for Brexit feel? One can of course only conjecture but the certainties that were in place 10 days ago now suddenly look much more fragile.
They will no doubt spread the net further as they look for a fresh champion but the resentment and anger that helped fuel a part of the wave that swept the Brexiteers to victory remains.
The spate of ugly racist incidents in the UK since June 24 have been well reported and need no further elaboration here and the temptation to tar all Brexiteers with the prejudice brush should be resisted. It does nothing for the debate.
Once the post-Brexit mood settles, it is highly likely that such incidents will be dealt with properly and once done so, a new equilibrium will be again established in the UK where tolerance still holds the balance even if it emerges slightly more fragile than prior to June 23.
But that anger does have somewhere to go and perhaps the Brexit camp should look at the dereliction of duty there leaders have shown in the wake of the vote (this criticism applies across much of the political spectrum in and out of Westminster) with the coalition coming completely apart in the aftermath as the enormity of the challenge ahead hits home.
And what of Farage? Does he become a footnote of history? I met him once at a Saxo Bank event in 2013 and he is certainly charismatic and knows how to hold an audience. Whatever your view on his politics might be, you could also argue that he was and remains a conviction politician who fought hard and long for an outcome, even if some of the tactics he employed may have been considered a bit close to the edge by some.
He didn't go down this path for pragmatic purposes: Nor did he edge and hedge to see what the future might offer him. As he said in his resignation speech: "I am not a career politician".
Where might he end up? Touchy-feely European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had a few words in his ear on Thursday before Farage took on the European Parliament in typical Farage fashion. Despite some seeming warmth in the exchange though, I think it's safe to say that Farage is most unlikely to turn up in Brussels or Strasbourg any time soon (notwithstanding his official capacity). What a turn up that would be.
Jean-Claude Juncker's not likely to be giving Farage a call. Photo: iStock
Martin O'Rourke is managing editor at Saxo Bank