Farage quits as head of UKIP
LONDON – The leader of the insurgent right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) said on Monday he was stepping down after realizing his ambition to win a vote for Britain to leave the European Union (EU), the latest twist in a dramatic reshaping of the nation’s politics.
The departure of brash former commodities trader Nigel Farage would sideline one of the most outspoken and effective anti-EU campaigners from the debate about how to sever Britain’s ties with the other 27 countries in the bloc.
But it could also give his UKIP party – which under Britain’s winner-takes-all election system won just one seat in Parliament last year despite capturing 12.6 per cent of the vote – an opportunity to select a less-polarising figure and take on the mainstream in a radically altered political environment.
The June 23 ‘Brexit’ vote to leave the EU has thrown the two main political parties into disarray, with the ruling Conservatives seeking a replacement for Prime Minister David Cameron and lawmakers from the main opposition Labour Party voting to withdraw confidence in leader Jeremy Corbyn.
“I have never been, and I have never wanted to be, a career politician. My aim in being in politics was to get Britain out of the European Union,” said Farage, who remains a UKIP member of the European Parliament.
“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.”
With Labour’s Corbyn so far refusing to step down and issuing a video appealing for unity, fellow lawmaker Angela Eagle said she had the necessary support to trigger a leadership challenge and resolve the “impasse” crippling the party.
Deputy leader Tom Watson plans emergency talks with trade union representatives, Labour’s financial backers, on Tuesday in a “last throw of the dice” to try and reach a deal over Corbyn’s future.
The acrimonious leadership battles in the main political parties have added to uncertainty at a time when Britain is embarking on its biggest constitutional change since the dissolution of its empire in the decades after World War Two.
Global markets have been hit by uncertainty over the impact of Brexit on trade and investment, and concerns that Britain’s departure could prompt other EU members to consider following suit.
George Osborne, the finance minister, has abandoned his target of balancing the budget within four years and on Sunday floated the idea of a quick cut in the rate of corporation tax to less than 15 per cent from 20 per cent to show that Britain was still “open for business”.
Labour accused him of trying to turn the country into an offshore tax haven. (Reuters)