Tuesday 20 February 2018

'Pantomime villain' not exiting stage quite yet

Nigel Farage holds a press conference at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, yesterday Photo: FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images
Nigel Farage holds a press conference at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, yesterday Photo: FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images

Sarah Collins

The European Union's "pantomime villain" says he is not leaving his Brussels job just yet, and hopes to export his independence movement across the bloc.

Former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said yesterday that he will keep his seat in the European Parliament until Britain finally exits the EU, but said he would miss it when he finally leaves.

"I shall miss it enormously - I've had an absolute whale of a time," Mr Farage said.

"I shall miss the theatre and I shall miss the drama there has been inside the European Parliament."

Mr Farage was speaking to reporters in Strasbourg yesterday. "I'll miss being the pantomime villain. I so enjoyed them all booing at me and shouting," Mr Farage said.

The firebrand politician, who once boasted about pocketing £2m of EU taxpayers' money to fund his cause, relinquished the Ukip leadership this week following the UK's June 23 vote to leave the EU. However, he said he was staying on as an MEP to keep an eye on EU divorce proceedings and to inspire like-minded movements across the bloc.

"I do find myself now freer, and I will be working with parties and political movements across the rest of Europe who are looking to get their independence back, too," he said.

Mr Farage has been the European Parliament's bête noire for the last 17 years, best known for his derisive addresses to the EU chamber at its monthly meetings in Strasbourg.

In 2010 he famously said that the then European Council president Herman Van Rompuy had the "charisma of a damp rag" and last year called France a "pipsqueak" in a "German-dominated" Europe.

His mocking tone drew the ire of European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans yesterday, who urged MEPs not to let their "democratic mandate be ridiculed or diminished".

In an impassioned speech to a packed parliamentary chamber, Mr Timmermans blasted those calling for the resignation of Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker as "politically weak, morally questionable, intellectually lazy".

"Is that all you have to offer? Destroy for the sake of destruction, rather than build something for your citizens?" he said.

He also made an apparent dig at Mr Farage and former London mayor Boris Johnson, who gave up on his Tory leadership bid following the referendum.

"What we have seen is that political choices have real consequences for real people," Mr Timmermans said. "These are not games we are playing. As politicians you have responsibilities. Face up to them, don't run away when you are scared of the consequences of your actions," he said.

Mr Farage, for his part, insisted that he would stick around until the UK's EU divorce was final.

And he has urged the British government to trigger the exit procedure "as soon as is reasonably possible".

"This is not going to be like Denmark or Ireland, or the Netherlands or France," he told journalists, referring to countries that have rejected EU treaties in the past.

"This result will stand - I am certain that we are going to leave the European Union."

He said that he was "bullish" about the UK's hand in the negotiations, given its economic weight in the world.

Mr Farage also warned against Britain selecting a Norwegian-style relationship with the EU, arguing that the single market was in fact a "protectionist club".

Irish Independent

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