One of the biggest winners, politically, of British voters’ decision to leave the European Union is Nigel Farage. The leader of Britain’s far-right UKIP party, Farage was persona non grata in British politics for much of the last decade. But after David Cameron announced in 2013 that the country would hold a referendum on their future with the European Union — an attempt to silence the euroscepticism of Farage’s insurgent, nativist party — Farage and UKIP capitalized on his political blunder: UKIP had been calling for a vote on leaving the European Union for years. Now was their chance.
Farage led the fight — and it was ugly. The “Leave” camp focused on British anger and unresponsive European politicians in Brussels, but they spent more time on public unease about the Syrian refugee crisis and how it might “change” Britain. Yes, it was a racist, nativist campaign that preyed on people’s fears and played on a nostalgia for British imperial strength on the world stage.
This one: pic.twitter.com/x1l9NR0GpK
— Jack Mendel (@Mendelpol) June 19, 2016
The Leave camp also promised that, once out of the European Union, Britain would benefit from its new freedom from financial obligations to Brussels. This was a central part of the campaign: Britain “sends the EU £350 million a week,” the Leave campaign said (the truth is closer £100 million, after an instant rebate that Britain receives from the EU). They urged voters to imagine the benefit of re-investing that money back into programs like the National Health Service.
And then, just hours after the Brexit vote, Farage went back on his largest campaign promise:
Farage is a despicable nationalist politician. It’s no surprise that he would lie to achieve his dream of, as he called it, “knock[ing] the first brick out of the wall” of the European Union.
But admitting that he lied in order to lead the UK into an economic disaster wasn’t Farage’s lowest point today. That happened a few hours earlier, during his victory speech.
Perhaps, though it’s not likely, Farage forgot the events of a week ago, when a white nationalist shot pro-EU parliamentarian Jo Cox to death.
Videos: Vote Leave; Good Morning Britain; BBC
Photo: Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party Nigel Farage arrives to launch his party’s EU referendum tour bus in London, Britain May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall