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Pro-Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage quits as UKIP leader

© Niklas Halle'n / AFP | UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage, brandishes a UK passport whilst delivering an anti-European Union speech in London on June 22, 2016.

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-07-04

The head of the UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, resigned Monday as party leader, the latest British political chief to go amid the political turmoil enveloping the country since its vote to leave the European Union.

"During the referendum campaign, I said I want my country back. What I'm saying today is I want my life back, and it begins right now," Farage, 52, told reporters at the packed press conference in central London.

"The victory for the 'Leave' side in the referendum means that my political ambition has been achieved," Farage said. "I came into this struggle from business because I wanted us to be a self-governing nation, not to become a career politician."

"If there is too much backsliding by the government and with the Labour party detached from many of its voters, then UKIP's best days may be yet to come", he added.

Abandon ship?

Farage joins Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, who said he will step aside to allow a successor to deal with the negotiation process to quit the EU. The favourite to replace Cameron, prominent "leave" campaigner and political star Boris Johnson, caused shockwaves when he declined to stand for the Conservative leadership leaving the field wide open. The opposition Labour Party is having its own troubles, with leader Jeremy Corbyn clinging to office despite having lost a confidence vote by his party's lawmakers.

Farage however surprisingly said he would retain his seat in the European Parliament to see out the negotiations for Britain's exit from the EU. This is despite Farage telling fellow MEPs last week, "When I came here 17 years ago and I said I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the EU, you all laughed at me. But you are not laughing now."

Farage defended his decision to remain a Member of the European Parliament (with its salary of EUR7,957 per month), arguing that he wanted to ensure that Britain's voice is heard.

He also offered his services to "other independence movements springing up in other parts of the European Union," adding he was "certain that you haven't seen the last country that wants to leave the EU."

Relentless focus

Farage devoted his career to campaigning for the UK to leave the EU, a goal that once seemed impossible but which he helped achieve with an unashamedly populist message.

The now former UKIP leader -- a member of the European Parliament since 1999 -- led the Brexit agenda with an unyielding focus on ending mass migration from within the EU, and by urging the public to give the "political elites" a bloody nose.

The former commodities trader cultivated the image of a man of the people, often being photographed with a beer in his hand, and his message to "take back control" resonated with many older, white, blue-collar voters.

He toured Britain non-stop during the referendum campaign, arriving at each location on a battle bus that blasted out controversially the theme to the famous World War II film "The Great Escape".

But he was frequently accused of taking his populist message too far, notably with a poster showing a queue of brown-skinned migrants under the headline "Breaking Point", which was roundly condemned by campaigners from his own Brexit camp.

However, the poster typified fears that fuelled some UK citizens to decide to vote for a British exit, or Brexit.

Place in history

In his 10 years as leader, Farage has almost single-handedly made UKIP a major force in British politics, even though it only has one MP.

Cameron once dismissed it as a party of "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists", but in the last general election it won almost 13 percent of the vote.

Farage was born in 1964 to an affluent family in Kent, southeast England. His father was a stockbroker and an alcoholic and his parents divorced when he was five.

He was educated at one of England's top private schools, Dulwich College in London, and rather than attending university, he followed his father into the City of London, where he became a commodities trader.

Farage has quit as party leader twice before, firstly in 2009 over party infighting and again in 2015 after failing to become an MP, but on both occasions decided to stay.

He insisted Monday that "I won't be changing my mind again, I promise you".

A political outsider all his life, he repeatedly failed to win election to the British parliament, but his role in securing Brexit has ensured his place in history.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2016-07-04

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