Nigel Farage is planning a tour of European countries to encourage more referendums on EU membership, the UK Independence party’s outgoing leader revealed on Wednesday.
Four weeks after his success in Britain’s EU referendum, Mr Farage told a lunch on the fringes of Donald Trump’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland he would be “encouraging other independence movements” on his tour this autumn.
“I’m going to go to Athens in September and we’re going to have a big symposium about alternatives to membership of the euro and what it’d be like to get out of the euro. Oddly, perhaps, I’m the most pro-European politician of the lot,” he said.
Saying the EU project “never had any legitimacy from the start”, he also predicted referendums would happen in Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden.
Mr Farage was in Cleveland for a victory lap, in which he drew parallels between Brexit and the rise of Mr Trump and expanded on the lessons of populism on both sides of the Atlantic.
“I’m absolutely not here to get directly involved,” said Mr Farage, who was not due to speak at any official event. Yet he wanted to offer advice to Mr Trump, suggesting his fellow political iconoclast should focus on those looked down on as “little people” by the political establishment.
“It’s irrelevant that Trump is rich if he is able to go into those communities and to have conversations with those people so that they feel he actually gets it. That’s the problem isn’t it? Brussels doesn’t get it, London doesn’t get it and I guess for these people, Washington doesn’t get it.”
Mr Farage is not the only European populist to attend the convention. Europe’s mainstream politicians have stayed away from Cleveland but mavericks have come to share their views on Mr Trump’s rise and build international support for their movements.
Geert Wilders, leader of the far-right Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands, also addressed attendees and praised Mr Trump’s populism and nationalism. “He is what we’ve been waiting for since Teddy Roosevelt,” he said, according to the website Breitbart.
Although Mr Farage was broadly supportive of the Republican nominee, he hinted that he found some of Mr Trump’s comments too extreme.
“He’s dared to talk about things other people would rather were swept under the carpet and not discussed in polite society,” he said. “There are one or two aspects, one or two things he’s said, that make me a little bit uncomfortable but perhaps that is a cultural thing.”
Free from the burdens of the referendum campaign and his frequently divided party, an upbeat Mr Farage said he could never vote for Mr Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton: “It’s just her sense of entitlement. It’s as if you have introduced the hereditary system in American politics.”
He hoped to convey that Britain should not withdraw from the world after leaving the EU, saying he was “pro the concept of Nato”, for example, while arguing that the alliance might need tweaking.
“I’m pro the concept of nation states having a co-operative club within which they can work together. I just think Nato perhaps needs to redefine itself and citing the Ukraine in this answer shows you that Nato hasn’t quite worked out, post the end of the cold war, what it’s all about.”
Addressing British politics, Mr Farage praised the new prime minister Theresa May for saying “Brexit means Brexit” and for appointing Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, and David Davis, the Brexit secretary, to senior roles. But he promised he would be “holding her feet to the fire” over leaving the EU. “If by the 2020 general election, we haven’t got back our territorial fishing waters [and] immigration hasn’t fallen, then if you think you’ve seen fundamental change in British politics over the past month, then you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
He also offered words of warning for the Labour party and its leader following Brexit: “I think there’s a very good chance by 2020 [that] the Labour party will cease to be an effective opposition at all under Jeremy Corbyn,” he said.
Mr Farage added that he would not be “retiring to the hills” when he steps down as Ukip leader and would not overlook his day job as a member of the European Parliament. “I shall go to the European Parliament throughout the whole of this process and I shall make speeches there, in my usual friendly, disruptive and open manner which they so adore in that place.”
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