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Nigel Farage quits UKIP, says party has become too extreme

The MEP said the party had become fixated on far-right activist Tommy Robinson.

Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Images

NIGEL FARAGE HAS announced that he is leaving the UK Independence Party (UKIP), and has taken a swipe at party leader Gerard Batten and former far-right leader Tommy Robinson in the process.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Farage said the “obsession” the current UKIP leadership has with Robinson – whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – and “fixation with the issue of Islam makes UKIP unrecognisable to many of us”. 

Farage had long campaigned for Britain to leave the EU, and led UKIP for a number of years. 

He closed his statement by saying: “There is a huge space for a Brexit party in British politics, but it won’t be filled by UKIP.”

The MEP for South-East England has led UKIP on a number of occasions, dating back to 2006 and most recently in 2016.

Although he was a figurehead for the ultimately successful Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum, UKIP failed to capitalise on these gains and its vote collapsed from 12.6% in the 2015 general election to 1.8% in 2017.

Farage was criticised during the campaign for an anti-migrant poster showing a queue of refugees with the headline “Breaking point: the EU has failed us all”. He also faced criticism for a key promise from the Leave campaign that the money the UK sends to EU every week would be pumped directly into the NHS after Brexit.

He admitted the day after the Brexit vote that this pledge was “a mistake”. 

The party has always been known for right-wing, euroscepticism and British nationalism, and been accused of being anti-immigrant and Islamophobic. Writing in the Telegraph, however, Farage said that the party’s direction had changed fundamentally under latest leader Batten.

He said: “With the Conservative and Labour parties having openly broken both their referendum and general election promises, UKIP should be riding high in the polls.

With regret, however, I must admit that I now do not believe it will do so again. Mr Batten’s obsession with Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (to use Tommy Robinson’s real name) and fixation with the issue of Islam makes UKIP unrecognisable to many of us. 

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He said Robinson – who founded a street-level Islamophobic fringe group called the English Defence League – was “entirely unsuitable to be involved in any political party”. 

Farage also said that the party’s activities may now also inspire “violent and thuggish behaviour” and this will give the opponents of Brexit “a chance to lambast Brexiteers everywhere”. 

Referencing the looming Brexit vote in the House of Commons, he added: “We are now just a few days away from the most ill-judged political event I have ever been aware of in British politics. The very idea of Tommy Robinson being at the centre of the Brexit debate is too awful to contemplate.”

About the author:

Sean Murray

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