Farage resigns: 'I want my life back'
By Eszter Zalan
Staunch anti-EU MEP Nigel Farage is stepping down as leader of the UK Independence Party (Ukip), saying that with the UK voting to leave the European Union he has attained his political objective.
"The victory for the Leave side in the referendum means that my political ambition has been achieved. I came into this struggle from business because I wanted us to be a self-governing nation, not to become a career politician," Farage said in a statement on Monday (4 July).
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Farage was elected as a member of the European Parliament first in 1999 and has been an MEP ever since. He has unsuccessfully fought five times for a seat in the UK parliament.
This is the third time Farage has announced his resignation as party leader.
The most recent time was in May last year, when he failed to win a seat in the British general election. He then retained his leadership position after party members insisted.
This time he vowed not to come back and not to stand for MP either.
“During the referendum I said I wanted my country back … now I want my life back,” he said at a press conference in Westminster.
“I now feel that I’ve done my bit, that I couldn’t possibly achieve more,” he added.
Farage's resignation as party leader does not effect his position as an MEP, although European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker last week asked him and his fellow Ukip deputies in the parliament: "Why are you still here?"
The 52 year-old Farage said that he and other Ukip MEPs would remain in the EP as long as the UK is a member of the EU. That could mean they could stay at least another two years, if exit negotiations do not drag on.
Farage quickly drew criticism from other MEPs for keeping his EU position, but leaving the party.
"Nigel Farage is the latest coward to abandon the chaos he is responsible for. This shows that he has no credibility at all," Manfred Weber, the leader of the powerful centre-right EPP bloc tweeted.
"Nigel Farage says 'he wants his life back'. He should rather think about the lives of all those Brits he has cut off from Europe," he added in another tweet.
A liberal MEP also criticised Farage for "wanting his life back" yet sticking to his EP job.
"First he wanted his country back, now he wants his life back. But he will not give his EP seat back," Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld tweeted.
Ukip to stay influential
Farage said that Ukip could look forward to gaining more influence now that mainstream parties, the ruling Conservatives and opposition Labour, were entangled in leadership crises.
"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," Farage said in his statetment.
He promised to keep up the pressure on the establishment. At his press conference he said Ukip's job would be to make sure the UK government does not try to "appease" the EU in its negotiations on future relations.
Farage did not comment on who should succeed him. Possible candidates could be deputy leader Paul Nuttall, immigration spokesman Steven Woolfe, culture spokesman Peter Whittle, or the party’s only MP, Douglas Carswell.